Going to the Rio Olympics? Read on for advice on 6 Health Risks
6th July 2016
running-track-1306518-1598x1062With their inflated salaries, multi-million pound sponsorship deals, mansions and flash cars, sometimes it is easy to forget that celebrities are human beings just like the rest of us. Money worries aside, they generally share the same concerns as everybody else and are not invincible superhuman characters that are immune to ill-health. This was epitomised recently with the golfer Rory McIroy’s withdrawal from the 2016 Summer Olympics, taking place in Rio de Janeiro. Mcilroy sacrificed taking part in what will be the first golfing event to be played at the Olympics since the 1904 Summer Olympics, after being concerned about the outbreak of Zika virus. This isn’t the first time a major sporting event has been held in the country in recent years, with the 2014 World Cup taking place there resulting in the entire England football team being prescribed antimalarial malarone to fend off malaria. With all this in mind, clearly there are some health concerns not only in Rio, but other areas around Brazil, which both spectators and the sportsmen and women themselves need to consider when travelling over to the South American country. Malaria Malaria is a high risk disease in many parts of Brazil, making a resurgence in the forested areas of Rio de Janeiro State during early 2015. However, authorities reported that local transmission had stopped by mid-2015. The potentially deadly mosquito-borne virus is actually at very minimal risk in Rio, and as such, International authorities do not usually recommend antimalarial medication for the area. The NHS fit for travel Brazil malaria map gives a guide of which areas of the country are typically a high risk for the disease. Those wishing the venture further out from Rio are advised to discuss this with their GP as malaria precautions are essential, and you cannot be vaccinated against it. Malarone or doxycycline or mefloquine is usually recommended for those visiting risk areas. If malaria tablets are prescribed for any given trip, it is important to continue once out of the risk area as directed. In addition, people can do their best to avoid mosquito bites by covering up with clothing such as long sleeves and long trousers - especially after sunset, using insect repellent that contains DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) on exposed skin after sunscreen has been applied – such as Jungle Formula, and, when necessary, sleeping under a mosquito net. Sexually transmitted infection Individual sex work is legal in Brazil, and many travelling tourists may wish to take advantage of this. As such, Brazil’s one million sex workers will be looking to cash in on the influx of extra potential customers during the Rio Olympics. However, it is worth remembering that Brazil is one of numerous countries in South America with high rates of sexually transmitted infection and HIV, although recent intervention from the Brazilian government has led to condom distribution increasing more than 45% between 2010 and 2011 (from 333 million to 493 million condoms). Holidays may be viewed as a time to have fun, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of health. Medical Specialists® Pharmacy advise all UK travellers to pack good quality UK-manufactured latex condoms and use one each and every time sexual activity takes place. It is also worth remembering that some are arguing that Zika virus should be treated as a sexually transmitted infection and urging the Brazilian government to do more to emphasise the practice of 4safe sex as a form of prevention. Zika virus Zika virus has been consistently in the news through 2016 and is an illness transmitted by mosquitoes. Around 80% of those infected with Zika won’t experience any symptoms, but those who do will experience symptoms such as mild fever, rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain and fatigue. Zika poses a huge risk to pregnant women, mainly due to the fact evidence suggests it causes birth defects – in particular, abnormally small heads (microcephaly). As such, those pregnant or planning to become pregnant are strongly advised to seek pre-travel advice from a health care provider 6-8 weeks in advance of travel. It is recommended that pregnant women postpone non-essential travel to Zika affected countries. Apply DEET-containing insect repellent during the day and wear loose fitting clothing as mosquitoes can strike at any time in the day. Moreover, couples should use condoms whilst at the Olympics and for 8 weeks upon returning home. Anyone who experiences Zika symptoms in Brazil, seek medical advice at the earliest opportunity. There is no specific treatment or vaccine for the Zika virus and those who feel unwell you should rest, drink plenty of fluids and take paracetamol to treat fever or pain. Dengue fever Dengue fever is a huge problem in Brazil. In fact, in 2013 there were a record 1.4 million suspected dengue fever cases reported in the country. Travellers should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites due to the fact there is no vaccine to protect against the dengue fever virus. Using insect repellent and sleeping under a mosquito net are two ways to help protect yourself. Rabies Although rabies can be found in dogs, bats, and other mammals in Brazil, it is not considered to be major risk to most travellers. Rabies is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal, commonly through a bite, scratch or lick on broken skin, and Brazil is deemed to be a ‘hisk risk’ country for rabies in animals by the World Health Organization. It may just suffice to increase awareness of the rabies risk, avoid contact with animals (including bats), as well as report any bites for assessment. However, those planning to stay in Brazil after the Olympics have finished, in order to travel to more remote and rural areas – i.e. for caving trips where immediate access to treatment is unavailable – may be advised to see their GP for a rabies vaccine, 4-6 weeks before travel. Yellow fever Similar to malaria and dengue fever, yellow fever is transmitted through mosquito bites. However, the disease is preventable by a vaccination, especially recommended to those who are visiting the highly popular tourist destination Igazu Falls. With regards to low-risk yellow fever areas, travellers are still advised to apply a DEET-containing insect repellent to exposed skin and consider other mosquito-bite prevention methods, for both indoors and outdoors. Just a single dose of the yellow fever vaccine offers protection against the disease for around 10 years, but must be administered at least ten days before a trip. Moreover, many countries require a yellow fever vaccination certificate before entry, although exemption certificates can be provided for people unable to have the vaccination on medical grounds.