SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2016

Hajj pilgrims leaving from U.K. required to vaccinate against meningitis

The Meningitis Research Foundation recently urged Hajj pilgrims embarking on a trip to Mecca from the U.K. to ensure their vaccinations are up-to-date to meet visa requirements.

Vaccination against meningitis is required for all travelers, who must carry a certificate showing they were vaccinated at least 10 days before leaving for Saudi Arabia, but no more than three years before arrival. Seasonal workers in Hajj areas are also required to be vaccinated.

The visa requirement was added more than 10 years ago after a number of large meningitis epidemics occurred when travelers visiting Mecca-widely regarded as the holy city in Islam-returned to their home countries.

Newer vaccines like Menveo and Nimenrix, according to the foundation, are preferred. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has established a national network of vaccination clinics in England, Wales or Scotland, though the network does not extend to Northern Ireland.

Meningitis is inflammation of the delicate protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. The condition, which may be life-threatening, is caused primarily by viral or bacterial infection. Symptoms include headache, stiff neck, fever and confusion or altered consciousness.