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Experts: World Cup Travelers Could Face Health, Safety Issues

The shadow of a boy controlling a soccer ball is cast on a grassy area on the Barra de Tijuca beach while playing 'altinho' in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 2, 2014.
This month, fans from around the world will be heading to Brazil for football’s FIFA World Cup. But public health experts advise there could be more at risk than a disappointing result on the field.

Experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say travelers visiting Brazil may be exposed to a variety of health and safety risks.

Dr. Joanna Gaines, in the CDC’s Geographic Medicine branch, says there always are risks to health and safety while traveling. But she cautions that for those going to Brazil for the World Cup or the 2016 Olympics, “travelers who are attending special events like these may be at an increased risk.”

In an online article published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, Gaines and her colleagues recommend vaccinations or preventive medicine for infectious diseases, including yellow fever and malaria. In other cases, travelers should be aware of steps they can take to avoid getting infected - for example with dengue fever.

“There’s no medication or a vaccine to prevent it,” she said in a telephone interview. “So we really recommend that travelers are regularly using insect repellent, wearing long-sleeve clothing, wearing clothing that’s been treated with insect repellent, and doing those types of active things they can do to protect their health.”

Travelers are urged to check with their doctor before going, says the article, and doctors should alert their patients to hazards ranging from bedbugs and sexually transmitted diseases to crime and traffic accidents.

“Most of the roads in Brazil are actually not paved, and we do recommend that travelers be particularly vigilant, so really being careful when they are driving,” Gaines said. “Making sure that you’re trying to find a vehicle that does have the safety features that you want - I mean, at a minimum seat belts for sure.”

In their article, Dr. Gaines and her colleagues say travelers should see their health care practitioner at least a month before leaving, and seek immediate attention if they develop a fever during or after their trip to Brazil.