The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) is reminding people who plan to attend the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which starts on 13 June in Brazil, to make sure they are protected against vaccine-preventable diseases, especially measles and rubella.
Intensified international travel and population movement associated with mass events such as the World Cup increase the risk of imported cases of measles, rubella and other vaccine-preventable diseases. For this reason, PAHO/WHO is calling on travelers to make sure they are up to date on their vaccines and, if not, to get vaccinated against measles and rubella, ideally at least two weeks before traveling.
In the Americas, endemic transmission of measles was interrupted in 2002 and transmission of rubella in 2009. However, measles continues to circulate in other parts of the world, and some countries in the Americas have reported imported cases. PAHO/WHO's recommendation seeks to protect the achievements of the Americas in eliminating vaccine-preventable diseases.
This year's FIFA World Cup is expected to attract some 600,000 visitors from around the world. Of the 32 countries with teams participating in the games, 19 reported measles cases in 2013.
During the 12th annual Vaccination Week in the Americas, held April 26 to May 3, PAHO/WHO issued a call to action for people to protect themselves against measles, rubella and other vaccine-preventable diseases in view of the approaching World Cup.
"These viruses continue to circulate in other regions of the world. The risk of reintroduction of these diseases is especially high during mass-attendance events such as the 2014 World Cup," said PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne during Vaccination Week in the Americas. "Getting vaccinated against measles and rubella is your best shot to protect yourself, your family and all the people of the Americas."
PAHO/WHO recommends that travelers check to make sure they are up to date on all their vaccines. Anyone over 6 months old who has not been vaccinated, or who does not remember if they were vaccinated, should get vaccinated against measles and rubella at least two weeks before traveling.
"PAHO and WHO routinely recommend that persons traveling to warmer climates should also use sun screens, insect repellents, and protective clothing to prevent sun damage and vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria," said Dr. Jon Andrus, PAHO's Deputy Director.
"We must remember in this day and age, a highly infectious disease like measles that exists anywhere in the world is a disease that exists everywhere," he noted.
During their trip and for two weeks upon their return, travelers should be alert for symptoms that include fever, skin rash, cough, joint pain or swollen glands. Anyone who thinks they might have measles or rubella while in Brazil should remain in their lodgings except to go to the doctor, and should especially avoid traveling or visiting public places. If symptoms appear after their trip, travelers should follow the same advice, seek medical attention and inform their doctor about their travel history.
For more information see PAHO/WHO's Recommendations to maintain the Americas free of measles and rubella, published in March of this year .