By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: India may have successfully waged the battle
against polio, but Haj pilgrims from India this year need to be
immunized against this crippling disease before embarking on journey
to Saudi Arabia. They should also be vaccinated against the human
influenza, besides the regular vaccine against meningitis.
According to the Weekly Epidemiological Record, published by the World
Health Organisation (WHO), all Haj travelers arriving from
polio-endemic countries including those from “recently endemic
countries at high risk of reimportation of poliovirus i.e. India”
should receive one dose of oral polio vaccine.
The Ministry of Health, Saudi Arabia, has recommended that
international pilgrims be vaccinated against seasonal influenza,
particularly those at increased risk of severe
complications like the elderly over 65 years of age, people with
pre-existing medical conditions such as those with chronic respiratory
or heart diseases, hepatic or renal failure, neuromuscular or metabolic.
According to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the
United States, Haj pilgrims should take extra precaution against
diarrhoeal disease. Long rituals of standing and walking, heat,
sweating, and obesity contribute to the risk for skin infections. Haj
pilgrims should keep skin dry, use talcum powder, and be aware of any
pain or soreness caused by garments. Any sores or blisters that
develop should be disinfected and kept covered.
Stating that cardiovascular disease is the primary cause of death
during Haj, the CDC in its pre-Haj advisory points out that the
pilgrimage is arduous even for young, healthy pilgrims. “Pilgrims who
are caught up in the spiritual experience of Haj may forget to take
their usual medications. Travelers with preexisting cardiovascular
disease should consult with their doctors before leaving, ensure that
they have an adequate supply of medication and adhere to their usual
regimen. They should immediately report to the nearest health centre
if they notice symptoms of cardiac decompensation,” it said.
Trauma is a major cause of injury and death during Haj. Pilgrims may
walk long distances through or near dense traffic, and motor vehicle
accidents are inevitable. The most feared trauma hazard, however, is
stampede, and in such dense crowds, little can be done to avoid or
escape a stampede once it has begun, the CDC advisory said, adding
death usually results from asphyxiation or head trauma, and providing
prompt treatment is next to impossible in large crowds.
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Every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.