People planning to travel to Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj pilgrimage should be warned of ongoing cases of respiratory illness in the area.
Public Health England (PHE) and the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) have issued warning over Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus.
Hajj is the largest annual international gathering, with more than three million Muslims travelling from around the world to make the pilgrimage, including thousands form the UK.
Dr Brian McCloskey, director of global health at PHE, said: “The potential for spread of infectious diseases associated with mass gatherings is well recognised. Hajj, the annual mass gathering of over three million Muslims from all over the world, presents challenges every year, but particularly this year as we are continuing to receive reports of cases of MERS in the region.”
Dr Dipti Patel, joint director at NaTHNaC, said: “While there are no travel restrictions to the Middle East and the risk to travellers remains very low, the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health has advised vulnerable people and children who may have been planning to travel to the Middle East to perform the Hajj to postpone their pilgrimage for their own health and safety.”
Dr Shuja Shafi, deputy secretary general at the Muslim Council of Britain said: “Advice issued by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health recommended that the elderly, those with chronic diseases, pregnant women and children postpone the performance of the Hajj for their own health and safety.
“People who have decided to go on Hajj this year and are unwell before travelling are being advised not to travel. For those who have decided to travel it’s very important to follow health advice to reduce the risk of infection and to report to the health authorities if they become unwell.”