Approximately 3,000 Australians are expected to travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the Muslim pilgrimage (Hajj) taking place from 19 August to 24 August 2018.
At this time, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continues to experience clusters of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), associated with infections in healthcare facilities and exposure to camels and camel products.
In previous years, there have been no cases of MERS associated with the Hajj. However, in times of increased travel to an area experiencing a disease outbreak or when there is a mass gathering like the Hajj, there is a possibility of diseases being spread.
MERS can cause severe symptoms and death in some people. People with existing health conditions that make them more vulnerable to respiratory disease (e.g. the elderly, those with a weakened immune system or those with other health conditions) may be at a higher risk of becoming very unwell or dying due to MERS. Travellers should consult their doctor before travelling to discuss the risks and decide whether travelling to the Middle East is appropriate at this time.
It is important for travellers to protect themselves from MERS by taking precautions to avoid close contact with sick people or animals. Wash hands regularly and take particular care when visiting places where animals are present. Avoid raw or unpasteurised camel products. People with existing health conditions that make them more vulnerable to respiratory disease should avoid all contact with camels and the consumption of camel products.
A MERS information card has been produced to assist travellers before and after travel. The card can be downloaded from the Department of Health website. Copies are available in multiple languages by emailing Human Biosecurity.