North American soccer fans are getting ready for what looks to be the year’s biggest event in all sports: the 2014 FIFA World Cup. As 12 cities across Brazil prepare to host thousands of American and Canadian visitors, keeping travelers safe and healthy during their trip is a top priority for all involved nations, teams and players. One potential health risk involves a recent outbreak of H1N1, or “swine” flu.
Is There a Flu Outbreak in Brazil?
In the Amazon city of Manaus, which is one of the World Cup host cities, two people have died of H1N1 influenza in the past month. Throughout Brazil, there have been 11 deaths in 2014 due to the disease. An additional 15 people are in quarantine after showing symptoms of the disease. The hot and humid city is an ideal environment in which H1N1 flu can explode into an epidemic. Due to its inland location and lack of ground infrastructure for transportation, visitors coming to the tournament will arrive by air. This means that anyone infected will be sharing close quarters with fellow travelers, amplifying the risk of spreading the disease. The environmental conditions of the area can also tax the body’s respiratory and immune systems, making it difficult for unvaccinated people to fight off the virus.
What Is Swine Flu?
H1N1 began circulating in 2009 when it caused an epidemic of illness and an excess of hospitalizations and deaths. It’s a seasonal variant of flu that continues to circulate around the world, mutating slightly each year. While seasonal flu in the Northern Hemisphere is at low levels, there is always a low level of flu activity even when it’s not peak season for the illness. The congregation of large crowds in small places means there’s a potential for H1N1 flu to spread widely and return home with unvaccinated travelers.
How to Prevent Infection from Swine Flu
The best way to prevent infection from swine flu is to get a flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is safe and highly effective against the flu virus. The flu vaccine is available in two delivery methods, including injection and nasal mist. In addition to getting vaccinated, you can also take steps such as frequently washing your hands, using hand sanitizer when washing facilities are unavailable and avoiding contact with sick people.
Who Should Get Vaccinated Against Swine Flu?
Anyone aged six months or older should get vaccinated against swine flu with rare exceptions for people with certain medical conditions. Flu vaccinations are especially important if you fall into a risk group such as those over age 50, people with respiratory disorders, the immune-suppressed, pregnant women, healthcare workers and international travelers.
When to Get the H1N1 Vaccination
The human body typically takes two weeks to develop full immunity to H1N1 influenza after vaccination. Since the start date of the World Cup is June 12, travelers should plan to get their flu vaccinations and other travel immunizations from a Passport Health travel health specialist as soon as possible. Passport Health travel health clinics have the H1N1 vaccine in stock now and are ready to administer it to World Cup revelers. For the best possible health while visiting Brazil, schedule your travel vaccinations and a pre-travel health exam now. You’ll also receive additional travel-related guidance for visiting Brazil’s World Cup such as packing essentials like sunscreen and mosquito repellent, tips on how to avoid food-borne illnesses, and steps to ensure your good health upon your return.