The annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is among the largest mass gatherings in the world. This year, it will take place from approximately October 13 to 18. Hajj draws about 3 million Muslims from around the world, and more than 11,000 Americans make the pilgrimage each year.
Umrah is a similar pilgrimage that can be undertaken at any time of the year, but it is likely to be more crowded during the month of Ramadan (approximately July 9 to August 7, 2013) than at other times of the year.
Because of the crowds, mass gatherings such as Hajj and Umrah are associated with unique health risks.
Because of the risk of MERS, the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health has recommended that the following groups should postpone their plans for Hajj and Umrah this year:
- People over 65 years old
- Children under 12 years old
- Pregnant women
- People with chronic diseases (such as heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, or respiratory disease)
- People with weakened immune systems
- People with cancer or terminal illnesses
CDC encourages pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj or Umrah to consider this advice. Pilgrims who are concerned about MERS should discuss their travel plans with their doctor.