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Staying healthy at the world’s greatest soccer spectacle

Don’t fall prey to an infection at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Monday, May 26 2014

South Africans who are fortunate enough to be travelling to Brazil next month to witness first hand the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which kicks off on 12 June, have just under three weeks to get ready for the action. On top of your to-do list should be taking the necessary precautions to ensure that you stay healthy throughout your trip so that you may enjoy every moment.

Dr Pete Vincent of Netcare Travel Clinics and Medicross Tokai in Cape Town, suggests that it is worth finding out as much as possible about the potential health risks that you may encounter before travelling abroad. This will help you to avoid contracting an infection that might land you in bed rather than next to the soccer field during the world’s greatest soccer spectacle.

Dr Pete Vincent of Netcare Travel Clinics and Medicross Tokai in Cape Town, suggests that it is worth finding out as much as possible about the potential health risks that you may encounter before travelling abroad. This will help you to avoid contracting an infection that might land you in bed rather than next to the soccer field during the world’s greatest soccer spectacle.

According to Dr Vincent, travelling to Brazil can pose quite a challenge because of its vast size and the many vector-borne diseases that are prevalent in certain parts of the country. Vectors are organisms that transmit infectious agents and parasites from one infected person (or animal) to another, causing serious diseases.

“Malaria is present in the Amazon region, as well as in areas such as Cuiaba and Manaus where a number of the World Cup games will take place. Vector mosquitoes are widely distributed and major outbreaks have occurred in cities such as Rio de Janeiro. In addition, Dengue fever, which is transmitted by daytime biting mosquitoes, has increased dramatically in Brazil over the past decade. Dengue transmission occurs year round but peaks from March to May. Yellow fever is also endemic in parts of Brazil, and is prevalent in certain World Cup match locations such as Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Cuiaba, Manaus, and Porte Alegre.”

Vaccination for yellow fever is compulsory, and prophylaxis (anti-malaria medication) is available to provide protection against malaria. At present there is no vaccine available to prevent Dengue fever and travellers are therefore advised to take precautions to decrease the likelihood of being bitten by mosquitoes. The best ways to avoid being bitten are to use insect repellents containing DEET and to sleep under repellent treated mosquito nets. Tents and other accommodation should be properly protected with mosquito gauze and treated regularly with insect repellent. You can also protect yourself against mosquitoes by wearing long trousers and long shirtsleeves and socks with your shoes in order to minimise the amount of exposed skin that can be bitten.

“Although food and water-borne diseases have declined in Brazil, it is wise for any international traveller to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A and typhoid. Nowadays there is a combined Hepatitis A and typhoid vaccine available, which can prevent this risk of contracting these diseases. Measles are always a danger at mass gatherings such as World Cup games and I would encourage travellers to consider having a measles-mumps-rubella boost. All of these vaccines are available from your local travel clinic,” advises Dr Vincent.
The influenza vaccine should also be on the checklist of any traveller as April to August is flu season in southern Brazil, while northern Brazil experiences influenza transmissions all year round. Hepatitis B and HIV are also prevalent in Brazil and travellers should be aware of the risks associated with sexual contact, contaminated needles and the exchange of blood or body fluids.

“It is important to visit your healthcare practitioner or travel clinic at least three weeks or more before leaving for Brazil,” indicates Dr Vincent. “This will ensure that your vaccinations are up to date and you will be able to obtain all the latest information on important health issues in the region so you can enjoy the beautiful game without any healthcare hiccups.”

According to Dr Vincent the fact that you may be staying in hotels does not mean that you will be safe from illness causing bacteria and viruses because you could pick them up anywhere. Travellers need to protect themselves and there are a number of ways you can do this, such as by avoiding travelling to disease hot spots, watching what you eat and through the use of preventative medicines.

Having a tetanus shot should also be a precautionary measure for travellers as an injury might cause exposure to the tetanus bacterium, especially in areas where medical attention may not be readily available. The vaccination is effective for ten years. Tetanus is caused by the tetanus bacterium, which, according to Dr Vincent, affects the body’s nervous system. For international travellers who have not had any vaccination boosters since childhood, the combined tetanus, polio, diphtheria and pertussis vaccination should be a top priority.

A recent study of medical conditions in travellers returning from Brazil revealed that as much as 40% of reported cases were dermatological conditions. This was followed by diarrheal illnesses, which occurred in 25% of travellers, while 19% of individuals experienced illnesses characterised by high fevers. The most common specific dermatologic diagnoses pertained to skin diseases caused by the larvae of various parasites including hookworms and sand fleas which travellers typically contracted by walking barefoot in the sand. Other dermatological conditions included infection of wounds by the larvae of maggots and fleas. Dengue and malaria were the most frequently identified specific causes of fever and the most common reasons for hospitalisation after travel.

“Keeping all of this in mind, those who intend travelling to Brazil for the football event should not take any chances and do everything possible to remain healthy throughout their trip,” he explains. “A travel clinic can help you with the necessary precautionary measures and tell you exactly what the inoculation requirements are and what to include in your first aid kit. This will afford you much needed peace of mind”.

Netcare Travel Clinics are in constant contact with healthcare authorities and suppliers around the globe in order to provide the travelling public with up-to-date information on health hazards in more than 250 countries. Netcare Travel Clinics provide leisure and business travellers with invaluable healthcare advice as well as a comprehensive range of vaccines.

 

Ends
Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Travel Clinics
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Sarah Beswick or Jillian Penaluna
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
Email: martina@mnapr.co.za, graeme@mnapr.co.za, sarah@mnapr.co.za or jillian@mnapr.co.za

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