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EDITIONS
 Monday, 13 January, 2003, 14:22 GMT
Hajj meningitis cases fall
The Hajj
Some 50,000 travel to the Hajj from the UK each year
A campaign to encourage Muslims travelling from the UK to the Hajj to get vaccinated against meningitis has been hailed a success by officials.

Figures released by the Department of Health show a sharp drop in meningitis cases among pilgrims last year.

Just six people contracted the disease following last year's pilgrimage. This compares to 38 cases in 2001 and 45 cases the previous year.

Meningococcal infection is not only a serious threat to those travelling to the Hajj but also to their friends and family when they return

Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer for England
The number of deaths from infection has also fallen with no deaths last year. This compares to 10 deaths in 2001 and eight the previous year.

An estimated 50,000 Muslims travel from England to Saudi Arabia each year to take part in the Hajj pilgrimage.

Campaign

The government launched a campaign to boost take-up of the meningitis vaccine among pilgrims in 2001.

It followed a number of cases of meningococcal infection with the W135 strain in previous years.

Some of these cases involved travellers who had recently returned from the Hajj but the infection also spread to people within the community who had not travelled.

Details of the campaign were circulated within a multi-lingual leaflet in mosques, travel agents, GP surgeries and other centres.

Sir Liam Donaldson, chief medical officer for England, hailed the results.

"The aim of this campaign has been to reduce to as close to zero as possible the number of cases of meningitis in the UK associated with these pilgrimages.

"Meningococcal infection is not only a serious threat to those travelling to the Hajj but also to their friends and family when they return.

"Last year's reduction in cases is a direct result of this campaign together with our work with the Muslim community and the government of Saudi Arabia, which has made it a requirement of entry to have a valid certificate showing that travellers have received the vaccine."

This years Hajj will take place in the middle of February.

See also:

05 Nov 01 | Health
18 Apr 01 | Health
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