The Hajj 2015 and UmrahUpdated August 17, 2015
Released: August 13, 2015
Travel Health Notice
The Hajj is the largest annual gathering in the world. Almost three million Muslims attend this spiritual pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The Hajj season will take place this year between approximately September 20 and 25, 2015. Umrah is a similar pilgrimage that can be carried out at any time of the year.
Due to the large number of people at these gatherings, there may be an increased risk for certain infectious diseases such as meningococcal disease, tuberculosis, flu (influenza), and travellers’ diarrhea. Travellers should also be aware of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), a virus identified in the Middle East that causes severe respiratory illness. Travellers may also face a greater risk of heat exhaustion, heat stroke and physical injuries.
Canadian travellers should consult the Government of Canada’s country advice and advisories for Saudi Arabia for information on health, safety and security considerations.
Preparing for your trip
- Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
- Make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date.
- You are required to show proof that you have received the meningococcal quadrivalent vaccine (protecting against serotypes A, C, Y and W135) no less than 10 days and no more than 3 years before arrival in order to enter Saudi Arabia to take part in the pilgrimage.
- Additional vaccine requirements may exist for polio and yellow fever depending on where you are travelling from prior to arriving in Saudi Arabia. To see if these requirements apply to you, please consult the health regulations on the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health website.
- Make sure you are up-to-date with your recommended routine vaccines and adult boosters. The routine schedule for childhood vaccines may need to be adjusted if a child is travelling.
- Talk to your health care provider about additional advice on vaccinations such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, influenza, rabies and preventative medication for malaria.
- Be aware of the recommendations for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
- MERS-CoV has been reported in the following countries in the Middle East: Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Yemen, Lebanon, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. Travel-related cases have also been reported in several other countries. To date, there have been no reported MERS-CoV cases in returned pilgrims from the Hajj.
- The Saudi Ministry of Health recommends that the following groups postpone their plans for the Hajj and Umrah this year: the elderly, pregnant women, children and those with chronic medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, respiratory disease), those with an immune deficiency, malignancy and/or terminal illness.
- Read the travel health notice on MERS-CoV and follow the recommendations, including practising safe food and water precautions (e.g. avoiding raw or unpasteurized food products, including camel milk), avoiding contact with wild or farmed animals, and protecting yourself from the spread of infectious diseases.
- Visit the Saudi Arabia country page for additional travel health information, including food and water precautions, insect bite prevention and protecting yourself against animal-related diseases.
- Pack a travel health kit and purchase travel health insurance.
- Register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service so Canadian consular officials can contact you in case of an emergency. It is a quick, simple and free service that is accessible on mobile devices.
While you are abroad
- Protect yourself and others from the spread of germs and flu-like illness.
- Wash your hands frequently or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. It’s a good idea to always keep some with you when you travel.
- If you are sick with symptoms from a flu-like illness, if possible, consider delaying travel or stay in your accommodations or hotel to avoid contact with others.
- Try to avoid contact with people who appear to be sick.
- Remember to stay safe in the sun and stay hydrated as heat-related illnesses and dehydration are common during the Hajj and Umrah.
- Drive with caution.
- The leading cause of death among international travellers is traffic accidents.
- For more information on road travel in Saudi Arabia, visit the security section of the country advice and advisories for Saudi Arabia.
- Monitor your health.
- If you develop flu-like symptoms during the pilgrimage (fever, cough or shortness of breath) or other symptoms, such as vomiting or diarrhea, report your symptoms to the medical staff accompanying your group or to the local health services.
When you return
- If you develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough and/or shortness of breath upon arrival in Canada, tell a border services officer.
- If your symptoms appear within 14 days of your return to Canada, especially if you have a chronic medical condition, contact a health care provider or urgent care facility. Call ahead and describe your symptoms and which countries you have visited while travelling. This way, the health care provider may arrange to see you without exposing others.