Action is to be taken to warn UK Muslims of a newly discovered
meningitis strain, which affects those who take part in pilgrimages to
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
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,'
'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
Pilgrimages at other times of the year are referred to as Umrah.