Hajj 2016: Required vaccinations, crowd control, novel wearable tech and the Zika threat

Travel Medicine and Infectious Diseases
September-October, 2016 Volume 14, Issue 5
Hajj 2016: Required vaccinations, crowd control, novel wearable tech and the Zika threat
Qanta A. Ahmed, Ziad A. Memish
Vol. 14, Issue 5, p429–432
Published online: September 20, 2016
Article Outline [initial text]
Today 1,323,520 Muslims arrived in Saudi Arabia joining millions more Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj. As physician experts in Hajj medicine who have also performed the Hajj pilgrimage and attended pilgrim-patients both during Hajj at the Hajj sites we welcome the arrival of novel wearable technology introduced by Saudi Arabia to safeguard the Hajj pilgrim during what is one of the world’s largest mass gatherings [1].

Like all mass gatherings, physical hazards are a risk and among them one of the most dangerous is stampede that unfortunately impacted Hajj 2015 on a causeway on route to the Three Pillars in the Mina area of the Holy Sites [2]. Looking at the modern history of the Hajj, stampedes have indeed occurred sporadically though the 2015 events marked the end of years free of mass stampedes following significant reengineering of crowd management. Certainly this calamity is at the forefront of Hajj planners’ priorities with some interesting solutions already being piloted, but as every year basic precautions -cough etiquette, facemask use, hand hygiene and careful food hygiene remain paramount [[3], [4]].

Routine vaccination is not only recommended but is required- Hajj visa applications being accepted contingent upon on full sets of immunizations as is standard. Like every year, the three key vaccine requirements for visa issuing include yellow fever vaccination for all travellers arriving from countries or areas at risk of yellow fever given at least 10 days prior to arrival, quadrivalent (ACYW135) meningococcal vaccine; both polysaccharide and conjugated vaccines are valid with attention to differing duration of protection [5] issued no more than 3 years and no less than 10 days before arrival in Saudi Arabia and proof of receipt of a dose of oral polio vaccine (OPV) or inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV), within the previous 12 months and at least 6 weeks prior to departure for travellers arriving from polio-endemic countries which have never interrupted indigenous virus transmission. In addition, the Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia continues to recommend that international pilgrims be vaccinated against seasonal influenza with most recently available vaccines particularly those at increased risk of severe influenza diseases including pregnant women, children aged over 5 years, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing health conditions such as asthma, chronic heart or lung diseases and HIV/AIDS infection [[5], [6], [7]]…