(MENAFN - Arab News) A senior official from the Ministry of Health advised local pilgrims yesterday to take necessary precautions against influenza to prevent a flu attack during their stay at the holy sites.
Undersecretary to the Ministry of Health for Public Health Ziad Al-Memish told Arab News that only the vaccine against meningitis is mandatory. However, he said that the flu vaccine is desirable considering the present weather conditions and the susceptibility of the pilgrims to influenza.
He said the elderly people and patients who are suffering from chronic diseases should take this dose against influenza as a preventive measure to avoid unnecessary health problems during the pilgrimage.
High-risk patients who have chronic ailments such as diabetes, hypertension and renal diseases,should take the flu vaccine, which would help them perform their Haj rituals without any problems.
Al-Memish was speaking after yesterday's meeting of the Haj Health Committee chaired by Health Minister Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah. He said the minister was briefed on the latest health situation among the pilgrims in the two holy cities.
The undersecretary, who made a presentation about the health situation in the holy cities at the meeting, said he is glad there is a smooth flow of pilgrims within the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah without any serious health problems.
He pointed out that the health arrangements have been made in line with the global health standards spelled out by the World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Europe and in Atlanta in the United States.
A five-member team from the Atlanta-based CDC was in the western province until yesterday to monitor the measures taken by the ministry of health in looking after the pilgrims.
The team also visited the regional laboratory of the MoH in Jeddah. Blood samples of suspected cases among pilgrims are clinically tested at this laboratory, he added.
He said a two-member team from the WHO will arrive today to assist the health officials working for Haj. "They will be with us till the end of the pilgrimage season," the undersecretary noted, indicating that the ministry has a special team to monitor the movement of epidemics in all parts of the globe.
He said there is no cause for alarm about coronavirus. However, people should be aware of its presence and take preventive measures to keep the disease away."
The changing weather at this time of the year and with the start of the Haj season, a new strain of coronavirus was detected in two patients.
Coronavirus is considered one of the common etiological agents of the common cold.
The official said the symptoms of the virus include runny nose, general feeling of illness, mild sore throat, cough, headache, low fever and chills. It can also cause respiratory, intestinal and neurological illness.
The official said people should be careful when they mingle in mass gatherings.
"It is advisable to wear masks in crowded places and change them frequently."
He added that they also should pay special attention to personal hygiene, and hand cleansing and covering the mouth and nose while sneezing to help prevent the spread of infection.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has instructed all its foreign missions abroad to issue entry visas to the Kingdom provided the pilgrims comply with the quarantine regulations of the country.
Prior to the commencement of the Haj season, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the advice of the Ministry of Health, sent out circulars to all Saudi embassies indicating the quarantine requirements for the respective countries for the issuance of pilgrim visas.
This year, the Kingdom has focused on such illnesses as yellow fever, meningitis, seasonal influenza, polio and food poisoning. He added that the stipulated vaccines should be given 10 days before the date of departure to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. "We have prescribed some vaccines considering the incidence of the disease in those respective countries."
He added that the ships and aircraft carrying pilgrims should also produce a certificate that the carriers are free of mosquitoes.