What vaccinations should I have to attend the World Cup?

What vaccinations should I have to attend the World Cup?
April 30, 2014
The Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, site of the Finals for World Cup 2014. Photograph: Felipe Dana/AP
The Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, site of the Finals for World Cup 2014. Photograph: Felipe Dana/AP

The Gold and Silver medals won during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics will soon be a fading memory as athletes and spectators shift their focus across the Pacific to Brazil, the site of The FIFA World Cup™ championships.

From June 12 to July 13, 2014, enthusiastic football fans will descend upon the twelve host cities scattered across the vast expanse of Brazil to be part of the biggest single-event sporting competition in the world. The numbers are staggering! Over 3 million spectators attended the 64 matches of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa with an average of 49,670 per match.

Once tickets are purchased, flights booked, and accommodations found, adventurous sports fans need to consider the many health risks associated with navigating a tropical forested country in South America.

Traveling in the third world and attending a mass gathering potentially exposes you to many communicable diseases. Prevent getting sick by making sure that you are up to date with routine vaccinations. These include: MMR (mumps, measles and rubella), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), varicella (chicken pox) and influenza.

Brazil is a tropical country and mostly covered by rain forest that is home to the mosquitoes that transmit Yellow Fever, malaria, and Dengue Fever. So, the first order of business is not to get bit by the little buggers in the first place. See the previous Bug’s Blog for tips on insect bite prevention. Fortunately, there are also effective vaccines and medications to prevent some of these potentially deadly diseases.

Now here’s where it gets complicated. Your risk of acquiring Yellow Fever or malaria depends mostly on which region of the country you are visiting, and somewhat on your activities. Each city hosting an event has its own unique risk depending on its location and geography. Also, if you have traveled through a Yellow Fever endemic country, you may be denied entry without proof of a current Yellow Fever vaccine. The only way to ensure that you are taking all the appropriate precautions is to visit a travel medicine specialist who will review your itinerary, and determine if you need a Yellow Fever vaccine or malaria medication. A current worldwide shortage of the Yellow Fever vaccine may also make it harder to find as the busy summer travel season approaches.

Travelers to Brazil are also at risk of acquiring Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B but effective pre travel vaccines are available. The hepatitis vaccines are given in a series of multiple shots, so make sure you schedule your pre-travel clinic appointment at least 4 – 6 weeks prior to departure.

And don’t forget about travelers’ diarrhea, which comes from ingesting unsafe food or water. Montezuma didn’t just limit his revenge to Central America. You wouldn’t want to miss those exciting game moments, frantically trying to locate the nearest toilet! It’s also easy to get dehydrated sitting in a stadium in the tropical humidity so drink plenty of water, as long as it’s bottled or treated. Take comfort in knowing that carbonated or alcoholic beverages are also safe to drink; just avoid the ice cubes, which are often made with untreated water.

It’s hard enough arranging your tickets and travel itinerary to attend the sporting event of a lifetime. Bug says: Be proactive and visit your travel health specialist so your trip isn’t spoiled by illness. Bring back only good memories, lots of photos, and maybe a few souvenirs.