On Thursday, millions from around the world will be attending, tuning in or live streaming the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the world’s most popular sporting event, featuring the world’s most popular athlete – Cristiano Ronaldo. For those lucky enough to attend this highly anticipated global event, the CDC has recommended that all attendees should receive their measles vaccine (known as MMRV) prior to getting on the plane.
Measles – a highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease – is spread through coughing and sneezing with symptoms showing up as high fever, eye inflammation, cough, runny nose or rash, and can lead to pneumonia, blindness or death. Measles had a brief comeback over the past several years in the United States with high profile episodes in Minnesota and Disneyland, but it has been in Europe where the resurgence has been even greater and has continued into 2018. Last year, measles affected more than 20,000 people resulting in 35 deaths. Most of these cases were teenagers or children who did not receive the recommended vaccines in their childhood.
As a result of these climbing cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued travel vaccination warnings to Europe and Russia since 2017. Measles is a completely preventable disease with vaccines, but like other vaccine-preventable diseases, measles has been seen an unfortunate revival due to successful anti-vaccine campaigns.
Kristen Ehresmann, director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention and Control Division at State of Minnesota’s Department of Health underscores the seriousness of just how contagious measles can be:
“When we talk about exposure to measles, we’re really talking about any time people have shared airspace. Just sharing airspace is sufficient to transmit the virus … it is transmitted via the respiratory route.”
Moscow, a prime base city for the World Cup, is slated to host more than 1 million fans from around the globe, and with this expected increase in human population and mass movement, the likelihood of disease transmission is increased, as well as the likelihood of travelers returning to their home countries with diseases. Infected people are usually contagious 4 days before and until 4 days after rash onset.
In the first quarter of 2018, Europe reported more than 18,000 cases of measles. Russia reported more than 600 cases. To add to the alarm, of the 32 countries participating in the tournament, 28 have reported cases of measles this year.
If you are traveling to the World Cup this year and get sick or injured, the US embassy in Moscow has published a list of recommended medical service providers in Moscow. However, as their guidelines suggest, quality can range from “unacceptable to merely uncomfortable.” If you or your traveling companion wind up in a medical emergency situation, VIGILINT offers a comprehensive Global MedAssist Program (GMAP) including medical evacuation to your hospital of choice, access to our 24/7 Medical Operations Center and our board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician team.