The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah urged all local Hajj pilgrims to get vaccinated ten days before beginning their pilgrimage, Makkah newspaper reported.
Both the flu and meningitis are quickly spread in close quarters and have the potential to be deadly.
As people come from all over the world to participate in the pilgrimages, and stay in tight accommodations, the risk for a communicable disease spreading quickly is very high. Last year, over 100 people in Iran died from swine flu.
In 2000, over 200 people reported cases of meningitis after participating in the Hajj. The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted an investigation, and Saudi officials confirmed that the Zamzam well wasn’t the source of the outbreak.
A source said the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah demanded all pilgrim service companies and Tawafa establishments to ensure that all of their pilgrims have taken the tetra vaccine and flu shots.
“The Ministry of Health pointed out that meningitis is spreading in African countries. The influenza virus is also active this time of year locally and internationally. Pilgrims must now submit a vaccination certificate that shows that they were vaccinated ten days before entering the holy places,” said the source.
Sierra Leone is Back
The ban on Sierra Leonean Muslims performing Hajj has been lifted by Saudi Arabia after two years since the deadly Ebola epidemic ravaged the Muslim West African country.
This year, 800 pilgrim places have been allotted to the country for its citizens to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. The Hajj organizing committee of Sierra Leone which announced the decision of the host country welcomed the news but wasn’t satisfied with the number of places given the country with a Muslim majority.
“The Sierra Leonean government had requested an accommodation for about 3,000 pilgrims, but for lack of space, the Saudi authorities haven’t responded positively,” a member of the committee told AFP. He said they hope to negotiate the number of places to 1,600 participants.
Since the Ebola 2014 Outbreak, Saudi Arabia banned two Muslims countries Sierra Leone and Guinea, in addition to the Muslim community of Liberia – three countries most affected by the Ebola outbreak – from participating in the Hajj.
Sierra Leone has recorded 14,124 reported cases of Ebola, 3,956 deaths, and more than 4,000 survivors who haven’t been able to return to their previous jobs. The country declared the end of Ebola human-to-human transmission on March 17, 2016.