What to know before traveling to the Summer Olympics
In August, the world will gather to witness the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The International Olympic Committee predicts a half a million tourists will visit Brazil for the Olympic Games; a first for the country, considering the Olympics have never been held in South America. If you plan to attend the Olympics, the CDC recommends you visit a travel clinic at least 4 to 6 weeks before leaving the United States.
Visiting a large, third world city to attend a mass sporting event exposes you to many communicable diseases, so your travel medicine consultant will want to ensure you are up-to-date with all of your routine vaccinations. This includes vaccinations for MMR (mumps, measles, and rubella), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), varicella (chicken pox) and influenza. Your travel health consultant may also recommend immunizations to prevent Hepatitis A and B and typhoid.
The risk of Yellow Fever is very low in areas surrounding the Olympic venues, but a Yellow Fever vaccine may be suggested for people traveling to the interior states of Brazil. Or, if your itinerary includes traveling to other countries, a Yellow Fever vaccine may be required for border crossings.
The risk of acquiring malaria in urban Rio is also low, but the mosquitoes that transmit Dengue and Chikungunya Fever are plentiful. Brazil is also the epicenter of the current Zika virus outbreak, which is transmitted by the same mosquitoes. Women who are pregnant, or who may become pregnant, are advised to consider not traveling to Brazil due to the risk of serious birth defects linked to a Zika virus infection.
The CDC also recommends men traveling to Brazil for the Olympics with a pregnant partner use condoms or not have sex during the pregnancy. Travelers should practice diligent insect bite precautions (outlined in a prior blog) to prevent acquiring these dangerous diseases in the first place.
The most common illness in travelers visiting developing countries is travelers’ diarrhea. Stick to food that is hot or well cooked, and never drink water in Brazil unless it is bottled or treated. Fortunately, carbonated or alcoholic beverages are safe to drink, so relax and enjoy that beer at the stadium! Leave out the ice cubes, though, as those are often made with unsafe tap water.
Tickets are still available for most of the Olympic events, so if you haven’t already planned to visit Rio this summer, it’s not too late to enjoy a beautiful destination city and arguably the world’s premier sporting event.