Before heading to Brazil for this month’s World Cup or the 2016 Olympic Games, people should visit their doctors for appropriate preventive medicine, U.S. health officials say.
Those visiting Brazil should see their doctors or travel medicine specialists four to six weeks before traveling, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta write in JAMA Internal Medicine.
“We’re expecting that a lot of Americans will attend and we want to give them a chance to review some of the health and safety issues that come with attending World Cup-like events in a country like Brazil,” said Joanna Gaines, a senior epidemiologist at the CDC and lead author of the statement.
The CDC has already issued a travel advisory for U.S. citizens heading to the World Cup, which takes place in 12 cities throughout Brazil between June 12 and July 13 (see: 1.usa.gov/1mKeX2I).
The 2016 Olympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro from August 5 through August 21 of that year.
Gaines and her colleagues write that mass gatherings such as the World Cup and Olympics have been associated with illness outbreaks before.
For example, six different flu strains were behind an outbreak at the 2008 World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. Also, there were meningococcal outbreaks following a 1997 soccer tournament in Belgium and the 2000 Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
“We want to make sure that we can get our prevention message out to as many healthcare providers as we can,” Gaines told Reuters Health.
The health agency’s recommendations include receiving routine vaccines for preventable illnesses - such as the flu and measles, mumps and rubella, but also for other diseases, such as typhoid and yellow fever.
Seeing a doctor early “typically gives you enough time for vaccines to gain efficacy,” Gaines said.
While more time is ideal, Dr. Henry W. Murray said even people who may have forgotten to see a travel medicine specialist should make an appointment.
But, he agreed, "The best protection is to get it all done and out of the way a few weeks before departure."
Murray was not involved with writing the new report. He studies infectious diseases at Weill Cornell Medical College and New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.
There are no vaccines for certain other illnesses, such as malaria and dengue that are spread by mosquitoes. Both are serious and are accompanied by flu-like symptoms.
For malaria, there are pills available to protect against the disease but none is 100-percent effective, according to the CDC’s website. There are no pills that prevent against dengue.
“We recommend that travelers regularly apply insect repellent and wear long sleeve clothing that’s also treated with insect repellant,” Gaines said.
She added that it’s important for people to know that while malaria is spread by mosquitoes that typically bite at night, dengue-carrying mosquitoes generally strike during the day.
The CDC’s report also provides tips on how to prevent food-borne illnesses. Those tips include drinking bottled water, eating steaming-hot foods and washing one’s hands.
“Your basic health protection measures help a lot as far as any infectious diseases are concerned,” Gaines said.
For more information on their recommendations, the researchers write that people can visit wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel.
"People ought to be encouraged to go to the website," Murray said. "I would have that in my hand before I call my primary care doctor or before I start looking around for a travel care clinic."