The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is
working with state and local health departments around the United States to
investigate cases of serogroup W-135 meningococcal disease among pilgrims
returning from the Hajj in Mecca and their close personal contacts.
Three cases have been reported by the New York City
Department of Health among persons with a travel history to Mecca, their family
members who did not travel to Mecca or close community contacts. Several
European countries report more than 3 dozen cases of meningococcal disease among
Today, the CDC notified state health departments to be aware of the possibility of
meningococcal disease among individuals who recently (since March 1, 2000)
traveled to Saudi Arabia or their household contacts who may not have traveled.
In addition, CDC is asking states to enhance monitoring for cases of
meningococcal disease in individuals who may have had contact with returning
pilgrims or their families within the past four weeks.
Meningitis is an infection of the fluid and membranes covering a personís
brain and spinal cord. The bacteria that cause meningitis (one is Neisseria
meningitidis) are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat
secretions (i.e., coughing, kissing). All returning pilgrims and their close
contacts should be aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis including:
- intense headache
- stiff neck or neck pain
- pain when looking at bright lights
- nausea and vomiting
If someone is experiencing these symptoms they should see their doctor or go
to the nearest clinic or emergency room as soon as possible.
According to the basic tenants of Islam, all Muslims should perform the Hajj
at least once in their lifetime and this includes a pilgrimage to the holy
places of Islam in Saudi Arabia. Every year more than a million pilgrims
throughout the world gather in Saudi Arabia. It is not currently known how many
traveled from the United States. All pilgrims to Mecca are required by Saudi
Arabian law to be vaccinated against meningococcal disease caused by Neisseria
meningitidis. Those pilgrims vaccinated in the United States most likely
received a vaccine that includes some protection against "W-135."
However, the vaccine does not offer full protection and it does not prevent
someone from carrying the germ and spreading it to their family members after
For additional information visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention