Events Like London 2012 Olympic Games Are Hotbeds For Diseases
January 17, 2012

Events Like London 2012 Olympic Games Are Hotbeds For Diseases

Public experts are warning that mass gatherings like the London 2012 Olympics are hotbeds for diseases from around the world.

Scientists wrote in The Lancet Infectious Disease journal that events like the Olympics can have consequences for the host nation and for people when they return to their own countries.

They said there are also important issues to consider when handling large numbers of people.

Professor Ibrahim Abubakar, from the University of East Anglia, told BBC that there are risks from diseases already in the host country and from home countries of the visitors.

One report said increased air travel and the spread of disease could have "potentially serious implications to health, security, and economic activity worldwide."

The report in the Lancet also highlight the challenges of managing large numbers of people and pointed to the stampede at the 2010 Love Parade in Germany, in which 21 people died and 500 were injured.

"Conventional concepts of disease and crowd control do not adequately address the complexity of mass gatherings," Professor Ziad Memish,Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health, told BBC. "Mass gatherings have been associated with death and destruction - catastrophic stampedes, collapse of venues, crowd violence and damage to political and commercial infrastructure."

The report suggested a number of solutions to reduce public health risks during large events.

The authors said that as many people arrive by air, understanding flight paths is an important part of predicting the spread of bacteria.

Bio.Diaspora is a technology that tracks worldwide patterns of air travel to help anticipate the global spread of infectious diseases.

The internet can also be a helpful tool to track if and where disease is appearing.

The 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada used real-time infectious disease surveillance.

Dr Kamran Khan from St Michael´s Hospital in Toronto, Canada, lead author of the paper, found the vast majority of passengers traveling to Vancouver at the time of the Games originated from just 25 cities.

“An integrated platform of this kind could help identify infectious disease outbreaks around the world that could threaten the success of MGs at the earliest possible stages, provide insights into which of those outbreaks are most likely to result in disease spread into the MG, and identify the most effective public health measures to mitigate the risk of disease importation and local spread, all in near real-time”


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