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Saudi Steps Up Ebola, MERS Monitoring Ahead Of Haj

Saudi Steps Up Ebola, MERS Monitoring Ahead Of Haj

The Kingdom has stationed health officials at all entry ports to monitor the health status of pilgrims coming to perform Haj, officials said.

Saudi Arabia has set up a command centre that will closely monitor Haj pilgrims for symptoms of the Ebola virus and MERS coronavirus, a senior health official told reporters.

“We are monitoring the movement of incoming pilgrims at all entry points to the Kingdom with the help of our trained health officials,” Hussein Ghannam, general supervisor of the general directorate of health affairs for Haj and Umrah, was quoted as saying in Arab News.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health has stationed health officials at 15 ports of entry through land, sea and air to curtail the spread of infections among the pilgrims, he added.

The Kingdom has also equipped all its hospitals in Mecca and Medina with the required manpower and medical supplies to deal with any health emergency, officials said.

Special instructions have also been issued to pilgrims to produce vaccination certifications against yellow fever, meningitis, polio and influenza depending on their ports of origin, the ministry said.

All pilgrims are required to be vaccinated against meningitis since it is easily communicable in congested areas.

Health officials stationed at exit ports would also ensure that pilgrims have taken required vaccinations from their ports of origin.

“If they have not done so, relevant doses will be given to them at the ports of entry so that they would be fortified with immunity against the respective diseases,” said Mohammed Hamzah Khosheim, deputy health minister for planning and development.

“They would be reporting any developments to the central command committee on a 24-hour basis. ”

Saudi Arabia’s health officials are on high alert as millions of pilgrims from across the globe are expected to visit the country during the annual Haj season.

The Kingdom recently banned Umrah and Haj pilgrims from Ebola-hit countries such as Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia due to concerns of the epidemic spreading to the country.

Saudi Arabia battled a severe outbreak of MERS earlier this year but has seen the number of infections receding since summer.

However, the World Health Organisation has warned that the MERS situation continued to be “of concern” given the influx of pilgrims slated to visit the holy cities in the country during the Haj season.

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