WHO provides health advice for travellers to Olympics
The XXIII Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games take place in PyeongChang, Republic of Korea, on 9–25 February and 9–18 March respectively. Tens of thousands of people from around the world are expected to attend this international sporting event. Knowing and preventing health risks is essential to staying safe and healthy while abroad, and particularly when traveling to mass gatherings, the WHO specialists stress.
Large-scale events – such as major sports competitions – can be settings for disease outbreaks and other health problems, and may promote unhealthy products or result in unhealthy behaviour. But people can minimize risks by taking simple preventive measures. WHO produces health advice for people attending such mass gatherings, and supports national authorities in preparing for them. The goal is to make large international events safe from public health risks.
Extreme cold temperatures are expected in PyeongChang. Hypothermia and frostbite can result when temperatures plummet and a high wind-chill factor ensues, especially in infants and young children. Travellers are advised to seek warmth and urgent medical care if they or a family member experience any of the following symptoms: shivering, confusion, memory loss, trouble speaking, fatigue or exhaustion.
Currently, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) are reporting an increase in seasonal influenza (influenza type B and A(H3N2)). Travellers are advised to consult their health-care providers and ensure they receive their seasonal influenza vaccine.
Routine immunization schedules, established by national authorities, also recommend vaccination against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b.
The risk of infection with HIV, syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, herpes, hepatitis B virus and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is primarily limited to travellers engaging in sexual risk behaviours, especially unprotected sex, particularly with sex workers and people who inject drugs, and among men who have sex with men. When used correctly and consistently, condoms offer one of the most effective methods of protection against STIs.
Travellers should take the following precautions:
- follow the travel advice provided by their countries’ health authorities;
- make sure they are vaccinated according to their national immunization schedule;
- be vigilant in overcrowded areas, particularly where drug or alcohol use could influence unsafe behaviours;
- abstain from sex or ensure safe sex practices – specifically, consistent and correct condom use is recommended;
- practise good hygiene, including washing hands with soap and water before handling and consuming food.