(MENAFN - Arab News) An eminent medical consultant on respiratory diseases advised domestic pilgrims on Monday to take their vaccine against meningitis 10 days before they proceed for Haj.
Dr. Naila Abu Jedaie, specialist on chest diseases, was answering calls through the call center of the Ministry of Health, which was set up to help local pilgrims who will be performing Haj this year.
Besides vaccination, Jedaie was also speaking regarding medications of the pilgrims who suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes, blood pressure, heart disease, and chest diseases like pneumonia, asthma and seasonal influenza. Jedaie said the Health Ministry had adequate stock of medicines to treat such ailments.
Patients with chronic diseases, she said, should consult their physicians before starting the pilgrimage and strictly follow medical advice.
Regarding vaccines against meningitis, she said the dose is mandatory not only for pilgrims but also for health workers who are serving the pilgrims. She added that it is valid for two years and is available free of charge at all primary health care clinics in the Kingdom. The vaccine is also available at all private clinics at a nominal cost.
The call center was started on Saturday for the eighth consecutive year.
The program conducted by the Health Ministry's information center is part of the ministry's efforts in its awareness campaign among pilgrims to have a Haj without health problems.
The service, "Health for the guests of Allah", is available on toll-free number 800 249 4444 during weekdays. The ministry officials also help pilgrims who need advice on Haj matters through the ministry's website and on the social networking site Twitter by tweeting to @saudimoh.
Under the program, a team of experts gives instant replies to callers who seek medical advice during their pilgrimage to the holy cities. The medical team comprises consultants, cardiologists, medical specialists, pharmacists and dentists. The program is handled by a group of Saudi women who are working in the ministry and its hospitals in Riyadh.
Health Ministry spokesman Khalid Al-Mirghalani said vaccination against meningitis is mandatory for local as well as foreign pilgrims. Explaining the seriousness of meningitis, Mirghalani pointed out it may spread during Haj season and cause outbreaks, especially because of pilgrims carrying the disease from endemic areas. He added that congestion and overcrowding facilitates quick transmission of the disease. The vaccine is given to adults and children over two years of age and it is not administered on pregnant women.
The Ministry of Health closely monitors all incoming pilgrims to identify any patients suffering from meningitis.
Besides these vaccinations, the spokesman advised pilgrims to take necessary precautions against influenza to prevent a flu attack during their stay in the Kingdom. The flu vaccine is not mandatory, but it is desirable to take it considering the present weather conditions and the susceptibility of pilgrims to influenza. Mirghalani advised high-risk patients with chronic ailments such as diabetes, hypertension and renal diseases to take the flu vaccine, which would help them perform their Haj and Umrah rituals without any problems.
He added that the ministry officials would also distribute each family a packet of literature and brochures concerning personal hygiene to advise pilgrims on the precautionary measures to be taken during their stay in the holy cities. He said the ministry is taking every effort to provide a safe and secured Haj for local and foreign pilgrims.
"The ministry has been carefully implementing a series of health education programs among pilgrims and health officials to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in the holy areas," he concluded.