In June 2010, the FIFA World Cup will start in South Africa and be hosted in eight of the nine provinces of the country. Mass gathering events of this scale are significant as the opportunity for disease spread and infection is heightened as people travel from all parts of the globe.
This is an issue that has already been considered and taken up by the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) which is monitoring the local situation and has already published an online guide for the World Cup visitors, including the latest epidemiological information.
Furthermore, in preparation of the World Cup, ECDC is monitoring the epidemiological situation in South Africa to assess the potential health risk due to communicable diseases for European citizens. In particular, the agency is paying close attention to the ongoing measles outbreak that has been affecting nine provinces since January 2009. As of 6 April, there are more than 10,500 laboratory confirmed cases; (updated in week 11/2010). Although almost half of the cases have been reported in the highly urbanized province of Gauteng (Johannesburg and Pretoria) the numbers here have been decreasing so far in 2010. However, cases are still reported from all the provinces, mostly from Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, bordering with Swaziland and Mozambique which has led to a national mass immunisation campaign against measles, due to start in April 2010. Further, since September 2009 a severe measles outbreak is ongoing in the bordering country of Zimbabwe with almost 2,000 reported cases as of 31 March 2010. As a result, a national mass immunisation campaign against measles will be initiated in April 2010.
Mass gathering events represent a risk of communicable diseases spread. The importance of pre-travel health advice in case of mass gathering events is well-known: persons travelling to these events can be exposed to infectious diseases such as measles and carry the acquired infections back home infecting more people. On the other hand, visitors can bring infections from their home country when attending the events, and as such, expose fellow visitors and nationals. In this context, ECDC is stressing the importance for European citizens to be vaccinated against measles if they have not already been vaccinated or have not previously had measles. The vaccine should be administered according to their national authority recommendations.
ECDC follows any significant international event gathering people from different countries and especially the ones involving EU citizens. Event-based surveillance in host countries is included in the daily epidemic intelligence activities during the period of the events.
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