Dr Hussam Al Sa’oub
DOHA: People who intend to go on pilgrimage have been advised by the Hamad Medical Corporation to get vaccinated against meningitis and influenza at least two weeks before starting their journey to the holy city of Makkah.
According to experts, vaccinations require two weeks to become effective and start producing efficient antibodies and additional vaccine may be recommended depending on a person’s health.
“Pilgrims with respiratory, cardiac or immunodeficiency conditions should receive an additional vaccination, the pneumococcal vaccine, to avoid serious complications they may suffer if they become ill during the pilgrimage season,” said Dr Hussam Al Sa’oub, Infectious Disease Consultant at Hamad General Hospital,
Dr Al Sa’oub stressed the importance of adopting infection prevention measures, such as cleaning one’s hands thoroughly and often, preferably with soap and water, always sneezing and coughing into a tissue, or into the bend of one’s elbow if one does not a tissue.
Avoiding touching one’s eyes, nose and mouth without clean hands and not sharing drinking glasses or eating utensils is also recommended to prevent illnesses.
The effect of the meningitis vaccination lasts three years, while the influenza vaccination remains effective for only one year.
Effectiveness and duration of protection afforded by the pneumococcal vaccine is about five years; however, there is no harm associated with taking these vaccinations again before the first vaccination runs out.
“During the pilgrimage season, millions of people gather at specific places with limited space, all at the same time.
“That increases chances of infection transmission among pilgrims.
“The most common diseases that affect pilgrims are upper or lower respiratory tract diseases, such as colds, influenza, pneumonia, bronchitis and meningitis.
“However, digestive system diseases, including food poisoning, are also common during pilgrimage season,” said Dr Al Sa’oub.
Vaccinations are important to avoid respiratory tract diseases.
Maintaining good personal hygiene by washing hands before eating is helpful in reducing the chance of developing an illness.
“Facial masks can also be used to cover the nose and the mouth to avoid getting or transmitting infection.
“In case you catch cold or flu, you should drink lots of warm drinks and eat more vitamin C-rich vegetables and fruits. You should also take pain relievers (analgesics) and fever reducers and have as much rest as possible. In severe cases, you must consult a doctor for more effective medication,” said Dr Al Sa’oub.
After returning from Makkah, some pilgrims may develop symptoms of influenza as a result of the exhaustion of the immune system during the pilgrimage.
In such case, the pilgrim is advised to rest and avoid receiving visitors to avoid getting or transmitting infection.
A doctor must be consulted if the person develops more severe symptoms.