Health risks at the Hajj

Lancet. 2006 Mar 25;367(9515):1008-15. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(06)68429-8.


Annually, millions of Muslims embark on a religious pilgrimage called the "Hajj" to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The mass migration during the Hajj is unparalleled in scale, and pilgrims face numerous health hazards. The extreme congestion of people and vehicles during this time amplifies health risks, such as those from infectious diseases, that vary each year. Since the Hajj is dictated by the lunar calendar, which is shorter than the Gregorian calendar, it presents public-health policy planners with a moving target, demanding constant preparedness. We review the communicable and non-communicable hazards that pilgrims face. With the rise in global travel, preventing disease transmission has become paramount to avoid the spread of infectious diseases, including SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), avian influenza, and haemorrhagic fever. We examine the response of clinicians, the Saudi Ministry of Health, and Hajj authorities to these unique problems, and list health recommendations for prospective pilgrims.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communicable Disease Control / methods*
  • Communicable Diseases / etiology*
  • Crowding*
  • Heat Stroke / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Islam*
  • Saudi Arabia / epidemiology
  • Travel*
  • Vaccination