| 14 August, 2017

Health experts issue Haj advisory

Besides vaccinations, pilgrims advised to take other health precautions to stay disease-free

A Muslim pilgrim prays near the Kaaba at the Grand mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia September 8, 2016.  REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

A Muslim pilgrim prays near the Kaaba at the Grand mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia September 8, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Monday, Aug 14, 2017

Dubai: Pilgrims from Dubai travelling for Haj have been issued a medical advisory to ensure they have a safe and disease-free journey. This year, the UAE quota for Haj is 6,228 according to the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments. Only Emiratis will be able to avail of the quota.

All Haj travellers are advised to get their mandatory meningococcal vaccine well and all other recommended vaccines for infectious diseases such as influenza, pneumonia, meningitis yellow fever and polio at least four to six weeks in advance. Dr Sawsan Al Nahas, specialist registrar at the DHA’s Traveller’s Clinic told Gulf News: “While 4-6 weeks is the ideal time, those who have missed that deadline are advised to get themselves vaccinated at least 10 days before their travel. Anything lesser than that time line is not acceptable as it will fail to build up the immunity of the travellers.”

She added that the meningococcal vaccine is mandatory. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone undertaking the pilgrimage and the pneumonia vaccine is highly recommended for immunocompromised patients, the elderly and those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart problems, etc. The yellow fever vaccine is mandatory for people from some countries in Africa and South America and the polio vaccine is mandatory for people from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria and a few other countries. “People over 65 years old, children under 12 years old, pregnant women, people with cancer or terminal illnesses, people with chronic diseases (such as heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, or respiratory disease) should opt for the flu vaccine,” said Al Nahas.

Al Nahas also provided general tips for travellers for prevention of heat strokes, ways to avoid food-poisoning and allergies during and after the journey and advised on things they must do to prevent any misadventures on the health front

A list of precautions and guidelines provided by the travellers clinic advises them to:

1. Carry medical reports and prescriptions and enough stock of medications to last through the length of stay.

2. Get a comprehensive check-up done before you travel. Dr Nada Al Mulla, family medicine specialist told Gulf News: “All pilgrims with chronic diseases should understand their care plan from their physician before they embark on their pilgrimage. They should also carry their prescription and a detailed report of the medical diagnosis and history and keep it with them at all times. Pilgrims should carry enough stock of their medications, especially if they suffer from a chronic disease that requires them to take medications regularly.”

3. Diabetics must keep a sugar source handy in case of episodes of hypoglycaemia.

4. Travellers must ensure proper storage of medicines is essential especially in the case of insulin which needs to be stored at a low temperature.

5, Pilgrims must exercise basic precautions such as drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, consume foods rich in vitamin C, do regular hand washing to stop spread of infections and employ widespread use of hand sanitisers.

6. To avoid spread of airborne bacteria, pilgrims are advised against kissing and hugging when greeting others, avoid sharing prayer mats, avoid touching their eyes or nose after shaking hands with people, avoid direct sunlight for long hours. When doing Tawaf and Sa’i and staying at Arafat and Mina during high temperatures they must take care to be well hydrated and well protected from the sun’s rays.

Signs of early exhaustion

Al Nahas said that is important for pilgrims to recognise symptoms of heat exhaustion to take quick action. “If one experiences high body temperature, nausea, fatigue, cramps, thirst, headaches or excessive sweating, it’s important to move away from a sunny place, cool the body with cold water and head to the nearest medical facility or contact your campaign doctor immediately.”

Tips to avoid transmission of infectious diseases

Al Nahas said: “People who want to shave or cut their hair during the pilgrimage should follow certain precautions to avoid transmission of infectious diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. They should ensure that the barber is licensed and that he uses a single-use razor and disposes the blade immediately. Never share shaving equipment with others and do not walk barefoot to ensure used needle or razor don’t prick your legs.”

After return from Haj, the pilgrims are advised to stay indoors, get a lot of rest, replenish their hydration with the consumption of lots of liquids and give their body enough time to recover, advised Al Mulla and Al Nahas.

Where to get vaccinations

Residents can go to any of the DHA-run primary health centres in Dubai to get their vaccinations. The vaccinations are free of charge for Emiratis and expatriates travelling for Haj on their respective country quotas and looking to complete the vaccination protocol can get their vaccinations here for a charge. For instance, the mandatory meningococcal vaccination for expatriates is available for Dh285 with a consultation fee of Dh158. For more details, residents are advised to call DHA toll free number: 800342

By Suchitra Bajpai Chaudhary Senior Reporter

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