UAE, August 1, 2016 – With the aim to ensure the safety and health of Hajj pilgrims, the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP), in cooperation with the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD) and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), has launched a large-scale campaign.
The awareness campaign focuses on the well-being of pilgrims, especially the elderly healthy individuals and patients regardless their age who could suffer from chronic illnesses and cardiovascular diseases, as they are more prone to develop health-related problems especially those related to overcrowding. The campaign also includes medical advices: on heat exhaustion, awareness about healthy foods, personal care, provision of emergency medicine, and availability of essential vaccinations against: meningitis, pneumococcal, and seasonal influenza, …ect.
As part of the campaign, a joint team has also been established in coordination with available medical entities. It is operated by different healthcare professionals, including department managers, doctors, physicians, nursing staff, and technical professionals in preventive medicine, immunization, and mass gathering medicine. The Ministry stated that the recommended vaccines are currently available thus, all pilgrims are urged to get their recommended vaccines.
During the press conference which was held today August 1, 2016 in Dubai, where representatives from HAAD and DHA. Dr. Fatma Al Attar, Director, International Health Regulations Office, Ministry of Health and Prevention who emphasized on the importance and significant value of the unified actions taken by all related entities to ensure health and safety for all pilgrims. Dr. Fatma Al Attar also added that the campaign comes in line with the Ministry’s strategic objective as it caters for development of preventive healthcare system in the UAE in order, to ensure full protection and control of infectious diseases. In addition, she highlighted the importance of getting the right medical advice before going to pilgrims, and emphasized on all primary healthcare physicians are ready and available to respond to any inquiry by the convenient medical advice in order, to avoid all related health problems, such as: heat exhaustion and physical stress which can increase the chances of developing certain diseases while performing Hajj rituals. Moreover, Dr. Fatma pointed out that it is mandatory to stick to healthy diet and to the Ministry of Health guidelines which has been incorporated from all health-related entities in term of educational booklet for people with chronic conditions like diabetics and patients with heart diseases to avoid getting ill.
Dr. Laila Al Jasmi, Head of Vaccination Department, at Ministry of Health and Prevention, mainly focused on the importance of vaccines as an effective precautionary measure. Therefore, for this reason it is mandatory to opt for meningitis vaccine and to obtain a valid International Certificate of Vaccination and it is recommended to take vaccine 15 days prior to your travelling date to ensure it is effectiveness.
Dr Farida Al Hosani, Director of the Communicable Diseases Department at HAAD, said: 'catering for the safety of pilgrims and protecting their health from most common infectious diseases, considered one of the top public health priorities for Abu Dhabi Health Authority. Therefore, she also stressed for pilgrims on the importance of getting the recommended vaccinations’ shots due to potential high risk of infectious diseases that might be encountered by them and also can reduce the potential risk of developing these diseases among vulnerable groups like above 65 years old and those suffering from chronic diseases such as: Diabetics, chronic renal or pulmonary diseases, organ transplantation or bone marrow transplantation and leukemia. Furthermore, Meningococcal vaccine is specifically recommended by Saudi Ministry of Health as a prerequisite for all pilgrims before entering the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Dr. Nahed Alyousef, Director of Preventive Medicine Division, DHA, said: “we strongly advice anyone planning to go for Hajj to undertake the necessary preventive actions which would help them to perform their rituals without medical problems.” Therefore, as part of the most important recommended prevention methods against potential infectious diseases pilgrims should take the required vaccines at least 15 days before their travelling date. She also explained the consequences of not getting the recommended vaccines before travelling to Hajj as there is a great potential risk for disease outbreak during Hajj season and that may even lead to other outbreaks due to transmission of that disease to pilgrims’ countries which also escalates the hazard for global health.
The press conference also mentioned the importance of taking optional vaccines against other infectious diseases to guarantee the full physical fitness during Hajj. The recommended important optional vaccines may include both seasonal influenza and pneumococcal vaccines especially for the most vulnerable groups, such as elderly or patients with anemia, sickle-cell anemia, HIV, and chronic diseases.
At the end of the press conference, the Ministry of Health and Prevention, UAE and all concerned health authorities strongly advised every pilgrim to consult with the nearest primary healthcare physician to his place of residence in order, to be quite sure of his/ her medical fitness to travel and do pilgrim’s rituals. In addition, to do the following: get the required vaccinations, stick to healthy diet and be vigilant about food hygiene to avoid any related stomach disorders, and not to ignore visiting the medical doctor whenever developing any symptom or sign.
In conclusion, pilgrims requested to adhere to the following key health recommendations:
- Take rest when feeling travel sickness, dizziness and nausea.
- Avoid direct exposure to the sunlight, especially at midday hours by using an umbrella as head protection and humidifying the body with water.
- Drink plenty of liquids to remain hydrated especially while moving.
- Patients with chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes are advised to take related medicines along with self-examination devices to monitor blood pressure and blood sugar level.
- Elderly patients with any chronic disease that requires specific attention are advised to travel with a companionship who will be experienced in handling related medical emergency to that chronic illness.
- Make sure to carry medicines related to most common complains like Paracetamol (Panadol) for headache and body aches, antiseptics for wounds or skin lesions and ointments for burns.
- Upon feeling of fatigability or severe stress immediately discontinue any activity and if the feeling persisted, then you must visit the nearest healthcare center.
- Never forget your personal hygiene stuffs such as: soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, sewak and comb.