Soccer fans warned of polio and measles risk

Up to 20,000 Irish fans set to travel to Euro 2012 have been warned they risk contracting a list of potentially lethal diseases in the tournament’s host nations unless adequate medical precautions are taken.

In an attempt to bring a dose of reality to the continent-wide football party which kicks off in Poland and Ukraine on Jun 8, the World Health Organization has told supporters from all countries to be on alert for the likes of polio, measles and rubella.

As part of a health pamphlet distributed through sports bodies ahead of Ireland’s first major tournament in a decade and our first Euro championships in 24 years, the WHO has stressed the illnesses are common within the hosts’ borders.

Coupled with a similar threat of botulism from foods available in both nations, the WHO has taken measures to protect supporters from the diseases which — if allowed to go unchecked — can cause paralysis, blindness, pneumonia, swelling of the brain and even death.

“Ensure all your routine travel vaccinations are up-to-date.

“Measles and polio are especially important,” the pamphlet, which notes there were 31,000 measles cases in Poland alone last year, states.

“If you are between 15 and 29 and not vaccinated or immune, you are particularly at risk.

“It is very strongly recommended that you are vaccinated against measles and rubella in sufficient time before you travel to Euro 2012. If you are not, you risk being infected, and you may spread measles to others,” it adds.

While the diseases may not cause panic among travelling supporters, the consequences of a blase attitude to the risks involved are worth noting.

Measles and polio are highly contagious viral diseases which have in the past devastated generations of Irish people.

While those suffering from measles normally recover within three weeks, there is no specific treatment, with the disease potentially causing blindness, severe diarrhoea, pneumonia, and swelling of the brain known as encephalitis.

Polio attacks the nervous system and in one in every 200 cases causes irreversible partial or total paralysis within hours.

It develops in a victims’ intestine with initial symptoms including fever, fatigue, vomiting, stiffness in the back of the neck and pains in a persons arms and legs.

Although rare, botulism can cause respiratory failure, partial paralysis, double vision and difficulty swallowing or speaking, while rubella’s symptoms include high fever and a delirious state.



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