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Tips to avoid communicable diseases at mass gatherings and events

Large scale events draw immense crowds of people to a specific location for a short period of time.  Events of this scale may include the Rugby World Cup competition, the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games, Expos, music festivals, large conventions, and on mass religious celebrations such as the Hajj. 

With a greater than normal concentration of people, communicable diseases can easily be passed from one person or animal to another.  Caused by infectious agents, their transmission can occur directly (via contact with bodily discharge), indirectly (eg by sharing bottled water) or by vectors (such as mosquitos).  These diseases are caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites/fungi or their toxic products. 

Some common examples of communicable diseases include:

  • Flu
  • Viral respiratory infections
  • Chicken pox
  • Measles
  • STDs such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, some forms of Hepatitis, Syphilis, etc
  • Mumps
  • Hepatitis
  • Gastrointestinal infections
  • Dengue fever and other insect borne diseases if the event is outdoors
  • Meningococcal disease
  • And many more

Often the spread of communicable diseases at large gatherings involves vaccine preventable illnesses.  With the right precautions, be prepared and avoid these diseases when travelling. 

Before and during your travels, plan to avoid contracting a communicable disease by:

Vaccinating before you leave
Visit your travel health expert at least two to three months prior to travel for vaccine recommendations to help you avoid contracting a communicable disease whilst away.  Vaccines provide your best defence against many communicable diseases including Measles, Meningitis, Hepatitis and Flu.  To research the potential health risks for your destination, visit our Destinations page.

Wash your hands often
Wash your hands frequently to avoid picking up any germs.  Carry hand sanitiser in case you don’t have access to wash your hands. 

Ensure food and water safety
Communicable diseases can easily travel via food, from unwashed hands, dirty utensils, contaminated water sources or even transfer from unsanitary surfaces.  Remember to thoroughly wash your hands or use hand sanitiser and clean all surfaces when preparing food.  Make sure food is stored at the correct temperature, don’t leave it out and always wash produce during preparation.  Only drink water from clean water sources or purchase bottled water.

Cough and sneeze into your elbow not your hand.
If you feel a cough, cold or flu starting, cough or sneeze into your elbow to ensure you don’t continue sharing germs via your hands and continuously wash your hands.  Highly contagious respiratory illnesses and diseases easily spread via coughing, sneezing, laughing and close personal contact but most are preventable by immunisation or simple precautions. Minimise contact with those obviously afflicted with these illnesses.

Don't Share Personal Items
Items such as toothbrushes, towels, razors etc should never be shared.  Needles should only be used once, and disposed properly.

Practice safe sex
Large gatherings can sometimes lead to promiscuity.  Practice safe sex to avoid transferring STDs that spread by body fluids.  Infections spread by direct skin contact, such as Herpes and Warts, may be unavoidable.

Avoid insect-borne diseases
Take precautions to avoid bites from mosquitos, sand flies, fleas, ticks and bedbugs as they can easily transmit diseases.  Simple steps such as sleeping in insect-proof accommodation, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants outdoors and wearing 30% DEET repellent can help prevent bites. Some mosquito borne diseases are spread by insects that bite in the day and other insects that bite in the evening or at night, so be prepared all times of the day.

Stay home when sick
You can easily carry and transfer anything you contract so it’s important to stay at home if you are feeling ill, especially around mass gatherings.  If you are travelling to attend a large event or gathering, a little preparation will help keep you healthy throughout your travels.  To locate your nearest Travel Doctor TMVC clinic, click here.

References
https://www.aihw.gov.au/
https://www.who.int/
https://www.moh.gov.sa/

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