With about one week remaining until the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, media outlets across the world have been and will continue to cover the trials, athletes, uniforms, performers, and much more. But, from a public health and social marketing perspective, there’s another type of story that we need to ensure gets out there – a story about staying healthy when traveling to London. Massive gatherings, particularly ones of THIS size, call for major health preparedness plans to be in place. During the Olympic Games, visitors to London are estimated to increase by approximately 325,000 each day! With the immense influx of visitors, local residents, spectators, officials, and athletes, need to take the proper precautions while attending the Games, but also when they’re returning home. Flu pandemics in the past have caused massive public health issues, such as the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak after WWI that killed up to 40 million people or the Swine Flu outbreak during 2009-2010, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), affected between 43 and 89 million people in the United States. To make matters worse, according to a recent Maplecroft study, the UK is already at “extreme risk” for an influenza pandemic because of its popularity as a key travel center, the highly populated and densely packed cities, and a very mobile population. Check out their map below to see what other countries are at risk.
Luckily, public health agencies and organizations throughout the world and in London in particular are on it! According to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), they are “working closely with partners in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to ensure the health of those attending and participating is protected.” So, if you’re going to the Olympics and want to stay healthy, here are a few tips from HPA and CDC:
- Make sure you (and anyone traveling with you) are up-to-date on their vaccinations, particularly the measles vaccine.
- Watch what you bring home! If you’re not vaccinated when traveling abroad and contract measles, you could bring it back to the States.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.
- If you become sick with a stomach bug or flu-like illness, don’t spread it! And, just to be safe, stay home.
- To prevent heatstroke, wear sun block and a hat.
- Drink a lot of water, but make sure it’s safe by ensuring the cap is sealed (with bottled water) or obtaining it from an “authorized water point.”
If you’re heading to the 2012 Olympics, remember those simple tips and, most importantly, have fun and go team USA!