By Gaya Travel on July 14, 2017
Over 30,000 Malaysians are expected to perform the Hajj in Makkah this year. This mass gathering which involves millions of pilgrims from all over the world can increase the risk of contracting potentially fatal infections, such as invasive meningococcal disease (IMD).
According to Datuk Professor Dr Zulkifli Ismail, Technical Committee Chairman of the Immunise4Life (IFL) programme, IMD can be readily transmitted from person to person through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions, especially when in close quarters.
He went on to explain that the disease carries a mortality rate of 10%-15% among infected peopleiii. Out of those who survive, many may suffer from long-term disabilities, such as loss of limbs, deafness, problems to the nervous system or brain damage.
“The government of Saudi Arabia has made it compulsory for all pilgrims to be vaccinated against IMDiv. Nevertheless, it is important to understand why these measures have been put in place.
“This is why the Immunise4Life programme has collaborated with the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia (IMAM) and GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceutical Sdn Bhd to launch the ‘Bawa Pulang Barakah, Elak Mudharat’ (Bring Home Blessings, Avoid Harm) campaign.
“It will feature an array of educational tools, including an online video, informative leaflets, clinic posters and informative posts on www.facebook.com/immunise4life.” Ramil Burden, Vice President and General Manager of GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceutical Sdn Bhd Malaysia affirmed the company’s commitment to the campaign.
“As one of the world’s largest manufacturers of innovative vaccines, we are proud to continue our support for IFL in protecting pilgrims and their loved ones against invasive meningococcal diseasev,” he said.
Former head of the Tabung Haji Medical Team in Makkah, Dato’ Professor Dr Abdul Razak Abdul Muttalif, remarked that an estimated 135,000 deaths globally are related to invasive meningococcal disease each yearvi. In countries with high endemicity, this disease can cause a major strain to public health system.
The senior consultant respiratory physician said, “Invasive meningococcal disease is caused by the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria. It can result in meningitis, a serious infection of the meninges (membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord). If left untreated, it can cause severe brain damage, which is fatal in 50% of cases. The bacteria can also cause sepsis (blood infection), pneumonia (lung inflammation) and other localised infections.”
Dato’ Razak stressed that vaccination is an effective way to help prevent meningococcal disease and pilgrims have a choice of two types of vaccine – meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine and the meningococcal conjugate vaccineiv.
The meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine is made up of polysaccharides (sugar molecules) from the surface of the meningococcal bacteriaviii. The antibody responses to the polysaccharide vaccine are agedependent – while these vaccines are reported to be effective in adults, they elicit negligible or short-lived protection in infants and preschool childrenix.
In the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, the polysaccharides are chemically bonded (“conjugated”) to a protein that alters its immunologic properties and enhances its ability to provoke an immune response in the bodyix. The conjugate vaccine is effective in adults and is also effective in protecting children, inducing a higher and more sustainable immune response.
The advantage of the conjugate vaccine is that it reduces carriage of the bacteria in the nose and throat, helping to protect not only those who received the vaccine, but also their loved ones.
The ‘Bawa Pulang Barakah, Elak Mudharat’ (Bring Home Blessings, Avoid Harm) campaign launch was officiated by Dr Jeffrey Abu Hassan, President of the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia.
He remarked, “It is a great honour and privilege to be able to perform the Hajj. However, good health and physical capabilities are key to performing Hajj in the best way possible. Falling severely ill due to diseases, especially meningococcal infection, will prevent hujjaj from completing the hajj and increase their likelihood of infecting family members upon returning homev. Hujjaj should aim to return home in good spiritual and physical state, hopefully with their hajj being accepted by Allah swt. They should avoid getting infected or becoming carriers of meningococci bacteria by getting the meningococcal vaccine”.
“Our hope is to protect our pilgrims on their holy journey, and to extend that protection to their loved ones.”