Information for U.S. Travelers
Health Requirements and Recommendations for Travel to Saudi Arabia during the 2010 Hajj
This information is current as of today, September 29, 2010 at 15:41 EDT -- Each year, millions of people travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj, a pilgrimage to the holy places of Islam. This year, the week of the Hajj begins November 14.If you are traveling to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, you can expect large crowds. This overcrowding may lead to an increased risk of accidental injury and infectious diseases, such as meningitis, flu, and other diseases spread easily from person to person.
To help protect the health and safety of pilgrims, the government of Saudi Arabia recommends that pilgrims should be 12-65 years old and in good health. The Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health recommends that people with chronic diseases, such as heart, liver, or kidney diseases, complications of diabetes, obesity, or any other condition that affects a person's overall health, do not travel to the Hajj.
Vaccines At-A-Glance Required for entry:
- Meningococcal vaccine (quadrivalent)
- Influenza vaccine
- Routine vaccinations (such as measles-mumps-rubella, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
Vaccinations Required by Saudi Arabia According to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington DC, US citizens, applying for a Hajj visa must meet the following heath requirements:
- All pilgrims over 2 years old must get a vaccine to protect against meningococcal disease. This requirement means that you -
- Need to have had your vaccine no more than 3 years and no less than 10 days before you arrive in Saudi Arabia.
- Must show proof of meningococcal vaccination on a valid certificate of vaccination (International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis) before you can enter the cities of Mecca and Medina to perform the Hajj. If you do not have this proof of vaccination, you may not be allowed to enter.
- Note for clinicians: This vaccine MUST be a quadrivalent (A/C/Y/W-135) meningococcal vaccine.
- All pilgrims participating in the Hajj must submit proof of vaccination for H1N1 flu. The vaccine should be taken two weeks before applying for the Hajj visa. This year the US is offering one flu vaccine that provides protection against the H1N1 flu virus and several other strains.
CDC-Recommended Vaccinations Routine Vaccines Before you leave for Saudi Arabia, make sure you are up to date on all routine vaccinations, which include polio, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. These vaccines are necessary to protect you from diseases that are still common in many parts of the world, even though they may rarely occur in the United States.
For more information about routine vaccinations, see the vaccine recommendations in the Immunization Schedules for your age group and the age groups of any other people traveling with you.
If you are traveling with a child, his or her routine schedule for immunizations may need to change to meet pre-travel recommendations. Discuss your travel plans with your child's doctor or a health-care provider who is familiar with advising parents of children who travel.
Meningococcal Vaccine In addition to the Saudi government requirement, CDC recommends meningococcal vaccine because outbreaks of meningitis were associated with the Hajj in 1987 and 2000. There are two types of quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine that is required for the Hajj: meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which is recommended for people aged 2-55, and meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine, which is recommended for people over 55 but can be given to people aged 2-55.
Influenza Vaccine All travelers are urged to get a yearly influenza (flu) vaccine. Learn more about the flu vaccine by reading Key Facts about Seasonal Flu Vaccine.
Other Recommended Vaccines for Saudi Arabia Travelers to Saudi Arabia should consider some additional vaccinations. Hepatitis A and typhoid fever are diseases you can get through contaminated food and water. In addition to practicing safe food and water habits, you can also get vaccinated against these two diseases.
The prevalence of hepatitis B is high in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia. Travelers to this region who have not already completed the series are recommended to receive this vaccine.
Other Recommendations for Travelers Tips to reduce the chances of illness and injury-
- Prepare for your health before you leave. Learn how by visiting Your Survival Guide to Safe and Healthy Travel.
- Heat-related illness is a risk due to large crowds, high temperatures, and extensive walking. Children, the elderly, and those with certain health problems (such as heart disease) are at even higher risk. Learn more about temperature extremes to help prevent heat-related illness.
- Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
- Drink only beverages that have been bottled and sealed.
- Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If this is not possible, learn how to make water safer to drink.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, when your hands are not visibly dirty.
- Avoid sharing sharp objects, such as razors, with others.
- Wear sunscreen (at least SPF 15) to prevent sunburn, and wear sunglasses with UV protection to protect your eyes.
- Cover your head, when possible, to reduce heat exposure.
- If you are not feeling well during your trip, you should get medical attention. A U.S. consular officer can assist in locating medical services and notifying family or friends. For more information, see Know What to Do if You Become Sick or Injured on Your Trip.
- If you do not feel well after you return from your trip, you should get medical attention and mention that you have recently traveled.
- Make a photocopy of your passport to carry with you at all times.
- Develop plans for where to meet if you become separated from your traveling companions.
- Register with the U.S. Department of State. See the U.S. Department of State's Travel Registration site for more information and to register.
- See the Tips for Traveling Abroad page on the U.S. Department of State website for more safety tips.
The information in this document is intended for U.S. travelers. If you are not traveling directly from the United States to Saudi Arabia, the health requirements may be different. For example:
People coming to Saudi Arabia from countries/areas where there is a risk of yellow fever transmission must show proof of yellow fever vaccination. Pilgrims under 15 years of age who enter Saudi Arabia from polio-affected countries are required to receive the oral polio vaccine before applying for an entry visa. The Saudi government will also give these travelers, regardless of their vaccination history, a dose of oral polio vaccine (OPV) when they arrive. More Information
For general health information about travel to Saudi Arabia, see the Health Information for Travelers to Saudi Arabia destination page.
For information about security while traveling, see the recent Travel Warning for Saudi Arabia from the U.S. Department of State.
For the official documentation of full requirements for entry into Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, see the following websites:
- Saudi Ministry of Health Regulations (September 20, 2010)
- Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia requirements to apply for a Hajj visa
Posted: September 29, 2010