PUBLIC SECT0R: DoH PR drive to warn Muslims on Meningitis

Action is to be taken to warn UK Muslims of a newly discovered

meningitis strain, which affects those who take part in pilgrimages to

Mecca.



The Department of Health is to launch a PR campaign to raise awareness

of the virus among the Muslim community after research showed the deadly

strain has been contracted almost exclusively by those who take part in

pilgrimages to the Saudi Arabian holy city.



The DoH has hired ethnic PR specialists Media Moguls to communicate the

importance of vaccination to the Muslim community, via community

leaders, women's groups and mosques.



This includes African, Arabic, Pakistani, Indian, Turkish and Somalian

communities.



The MM team, headed by managing director Anjna Raheja, is also liaising

with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, which has manufactured a

vaccine to combat the new strain, discovered just two years ago.



Raheja said the reason Muslims on the pilgrimage are susceptible to the

strain is because of the sanitation issues associated with such a large

congregation of people in searing temperatures.



'What we don't want to do is scare people or create unnecessary panic,'

she said.



'The key is to promote the vaccination but we also want to give simple

and effective advice on how to stay healthy when taking part in the

pilgrimage,' she added.



Last year eight UK Muslims died from the strain. All had either visited

Mecca or were in contact with those who had.



Seventy-thousand Muslims from the UK visit Mecca each year. Just under a

third of these attend the Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place each year

in February.



Pilgrimages at other times of the year are referred to as Umrah.



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