Worry about health basics, not malaria during SA World Cup: Study

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Washington, June 6 (ANI): Soccer fans headed to South Africa for the World Cup need to worry more about health basics rather than malaria, suggests a new American study.

The study, conducted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), has appeared in the journal in the June issue of American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

The researchers say visitors travelling to South Africa need to worry less about tropical diseases such as malaria and concentrate instead on protecting themselves from more common travel-related illnesses - such as acute diarrhoea, sexually transmitted diseases, insect and tick bites, and vaccine-preventable infections, especially influenza and measles.

The precautions are based on data gathered through GeoSentinel, a global online network of 50 travel- and tropical-medicine clinics spread across several continents.

The network is a partnership of UAB, the International Society of Travel Medicine, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other groups.

The new study covers a 13-year period of GeoSentinel monitoring among travellers to South Africa.

Study co-author UAB's David O. Freedman, a travel-medicine physician and co-director of GeoSentinel and appointee to the World Health Organization International Health Regulations (IHR) Roster of Experts, said: "In contrast to the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, only six cases of malaria were documented among ill travellers returning to GeoSentinel clinics from South Africa.

"The risk for acquiring malaria in South Africa has been evaluated as low, and malaria transmission does not occur in the cities where the matches will be staged."

Approximately 350,000 visitors worldwide are expected to attend the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) World Cup, which is held every four years to determine the world soccer champion.

This year's matches are June 11 through July 11.

The study shows diseases characterized by fever, dermatologic conditions and acute diarrhoeal illness are the most common among travellers to the region.

African Tick Bite Fever, an infection often acquired from tick bites during hiking, hunting and/or other outdoor pursuits, is the most common diagnosis in travellers to South Africa who experience a fever.

Travellers to the World Cup should take specific preventative measures and self-treatment options for traveller's diarrhoea and the H1N1 influenza virus, Freedman says.

South Africa is considered outside of the African yellow fever zone.

South Africa is in the midst of an ongoing measles epidemic.

More than 9,500 measles cases have been confirmed since the beginning of 2009.

World Cup visitors should confirm their measles vaccination status before departure.

First author Marc Mendelson, head of Division of Infectious Diseases and HIV Medicine at University of Cape Town, said: "While we are pleased that the study findings indicate that South Africa is a relatively safe place to visit from a health perspective, the results of the study highlight the importance of individuals travelling to South Africa taking proper precautions." (ANI)

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