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High-risk groups urged to get vaccinations before Haj

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With the Haj pilgrimage less than a month away, doctors are urging travelers as well as residents in the Kingdom to adopt preventive measures well in advance to avoid pneumococcal disease (PD).

According to medical research, mass gatherings are associated with the spread of the infectious disease.

Director of Saudi Society for Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Dr. Nezar Bahabri said: “Mass gatherings such as Haj and Umrah provide the ideal overcrowded conditions for the transmission of infections.”

In the Kingdom, the incidence rate of pneumococcal disease is over 17 percent, with a fatality rate of 15 to 20 percent among elderly adults.

Pilgrims should take extra precautions to prevent pneumonia, meningitis, respiratory tract infections, tuberculosis, viral infections, community-acquired pneumonia, polio virus, blood-borne diseases and even food poisoning.

All of these conditions can lead to hospitalization and can result in further fatalities.

“Adult vaccination against pneumococcal disease conditions such as meningitis, respiratory infections and pneumonia, can save lives and prevent these infections from spreading and potentially taking on epidemic proportions,” Bahabri said.

Some factors that contribute to the spread of these diseases include close contacts with pilgrims, large crowds, shared accommodation and airborne dust.

Pneumococcal disease poses a serious threat, with individuals carrying the bacteria potentially exposing others through close contact, sneezing, coughing or even exhaling.

The Health Ministry and local authorities have established facilities to ensure travelers can have access to vaccination facilities, with doctors working with each patient individually to ascertain the best course of vaccination. Saudi Gazette

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