Saudi Arabia (Middle East)

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This travel page is provided by Fitfortravel, a public website by NHS Scotland which gives travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK.

Advice for All Destinations

The risks to health whilst travelling will vary between individuals and many issues need to be taken into account, e.g. activities abroad, length of stay and general health of the traveller. It is recommended that you consult with your General Practitioner or Practice Nurse 6-8 weeks in advance of travel. They will assess your particular health risks before recommending vaccines and /or antimalarial tablets. This is also a good opportunity to discuss important travel health issues including safe food and water, accidents, sun exposure and insect bites. Many of the problems experienced by travellers cannot be prevented by vaccinations and other preventive measures need to be taken.

Measles occurs worldwide and is common in developing countries. The pre-travel consultation is a good opportunity to check that you are immune, either by previous immunisation or natural measles infection.

Ensure you are fully insured for medical emergencies including repatriation. UK travellers visiting other European Union countries should also carry the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) as it entitles travellers to reduced cost, sometimes free, medical treatment in most European countries. Online applications normally arrive within seven days. Applications may also be made by telephone on 0300 330 1350 or by post using the form which can be downloaded from the website.

For Travel Safety Advice you should visit the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.

A worldwide list of clinics, run by members of the International Society of Travel Medicine is available on the ISTM website.

Immunisations

  • Confirm primary courses and boosters are up to date as recommended for life in Britain - including for example, vaccines required for occupational risk of exposure, lifestyle risks and underlying medical conditions.
  • Courses or boosters usually advised: Hepatitis A
  • Other vaccines to consider: Diphtheria; Hepatitis B; Influenza; Meningococcal Meningitis; Rabies; Tetanus; Typhoid
  • Yellow fever vaccination certificate required for travellers over 1 year of age arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission and for travellers having transited more than 12 hours through the airport of a country with risk of yellow fever certificate.The certificate of yellow fever vaccination is valid for life in this country.

Notes on the diseases mentioned above

  • Diphtheria: Spread person to person through respiratory droplets. Risk is higher if mixing with locals in poor, overcrowded living conditions.
  • Hepatitis A: Spread through consuming contaminated food and water or person to person through the faecal-oral route. Risk is higher where personal hygiene and sanitation are poor.
  • Hepatitis B: Spread through infected blood and blood products, contaminated needles and medical instruments and sexual intercourse. Risk is higher for those at occupational risk, long stays or frequent travel, children (exposed through cuts and scratches) and individuals who may need, or request, surgical procedures abroad.
  • Influenza: Spread via airborne droplets among crowds and in enclosed spaces. Travellers in the UK influenza risk groups should ensure that they have received their seasonal influenza vaccine before travel. The Saudi Ministry of Health recommends seasonal influenza vaccine for Hajj attendees.
  • Meningococcal Meningitis: Spread by droplet infection through close person to person contact. Meningococcal disease is found worldwide but epidemics may occur within this country, particularly during the dry season. Risk is higher for those mixing with locals for extended periods.
  • Rabies: Spread through the saliva of an infected animal, usually through a bite, scratch or lick on broken skin. Particularly dogs and related species, but also bats. Risk is higher for those going to remote areas (who may not be able to promptly access appropriate treatment in the event of a bite), long stays, those at higher risk of contact with animals and bats, and children. Even when pre-exposure vaccine has been received, urgent medical advice should be sought after any animal or bat bite.
  • Tetanus: Spread through contamination of cuts, burns and wounds with tetanus spores. Spores are found in soil worldwide. A total of 5 doses of tetanus vaccine are recommended for life in the UK. Boosters are usually recommended in a country or situation where the correct treatment of an injury may not be readily available.
  • Typhoid: Spread mainly through consumption of contaminated food and drink. Risk is higher where access to adequate sanitation and safe water is limited.

Malaria

Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease transmitted by mosquitoes. You cannot be vaccinated against malaria.

Malaria precautions

Malaria Map
  • Malaria risk is present throughout the year (but mainly from September to January) in the south western region except high altitude areas of Asir Province and the cities of Mecca, Medina, Jeddah and Taif.
  • Hajj pilgrims, many travel between Mecca and Medina. The risk of malaria is low in both cities and antimalarial prophylaxis is not advised while in either city. However, the journey between them passes through an area of high risk for malaria. The journey takes 6 hours by road. If it is undertaken during the daytime, in an air conditioned vehicle from which mosquitoes can be excluded, the risk of malaria is very low and it is reasonable to practice bite avoidance only.
  • Malaria precautions are essential. Avoid mosquito bites by covering up with clothing such as long sleeves and long trousers especially after sunset, using insect repellents on exposed skin and, when necessary, sleeping under a mosquito net.
  • Check with your doctor or nurse about suitable antimalarial tablets.
  • See malaria map – additional information can be found by clicking on the Regional Information icon below the map.
  • High risk areas: atovaquone/proguanil OR doxycycline OR mefloquine is advised throughout the year for those visiting risk areas.
  • Low to no risk areas: antimalarials are not usually advised.
  • If you have been travelling in a malarious area and develop a fever seek medical attention promptly. Remember malaria can develop even up to one year after exposure.
  • If travelling to high risk malarious areas, remote from medical facilities, carrying emergency malaria standby medication may be considered.

Other Health Risks

Schistosomiasis

A parasitic infection (also known as bilharzia) that is transmitted to humans through contact with fresh water. The parasite enters humans through the skin and prevention is dependant on avoidance of swimming, bathing or paddling in fresh water lakes and streams. For further information see Schistosomiasis.

Hajj Related Vaccines

Meningococcal vaccination certificate requirements

  • Comprehensive advice for pilgrims to Mecca and Medina is available on the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage page.
  • Visitors from any country arriving for Hajj pilgrimage and Umrah, or for seasonal work, are required to produce a certificate of vaccination against meningococcal meningitis infection ACWY. Both polysaccharide and conjugate vaccines are acceptable for visa purposes, but use of conjugate is recommended:
    • Conjugate vaccine - single dose to be given not more than 8 years and not less than 10 days prior to arrival in Saudi Arabia
    • Polysaccharide vaccine - single dose to be given not more than 3 years and no less than 10 days prior to arrival in Saudi Arabia
  • All arrivals from countries within the African Meningitis Belt (Benin; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Chad; Central African Republic; Cote d'Ivoire; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Gambia; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Mali; Niger; Nigeria; Senegal, Sudan and South Sudan) will also be administered antibiotic treatment at the point of entry as an added precaution.

Influenza vaccination

  • The Ministry of Health of Saudia Arabia recommends influenza vaccine before arrival, especially for those at increased risk e.g. pregnant women, children over 5 years, the elderly, those with chronic chest or heart disease.

Poliomyelitis vaccination

  • The Ministry of Health of Saudia Arabia has announced that regardless of age and vaccination status, proof of receipt of a dose of oral or inactivated polio vaccine within the previous 12 months, and at least 4 weeks prior to departure, is required for visa purposes from travellers arriving from the following countries. These travellers will also receive 1 dose of oral polio vaccine at border points on arrival.
    • countries within endemic polio (currently Afghanistan and Pakistan)
    • countries with imported or circulating vaccine-derived cases of polio in the past 12 months
    • countries which remain vulnerable to polio
  • Refer to individual fitfortravel country records for the most up-to-date polio affected countries.

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