ROCHESTER, Minn. — July 25, 2012. Massive crowds from around the globe will mingle in London during the Olympics, and that means a world-class array of germs will mix with them. Mayo Clinic infectious diseases expert Gregory Poland, M.D., offers several tips for avoiding illness when you are around lots of people, whether at the Olympics, a professional football game, convention, arena concert or other major event.
MULTIMEDIA ALERT: Video clips of Dr. Poland will be available for journalists to download on the Mayo Clinic News Network.
"The big ones that we're worried about in terms of the Olympics are things that are currently epidemic in certain parts of the world, including the U.S. Those would include pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, and of course, when you have people coming from the Southern Hemisphere, this is their influenza season," says Dr. Poland, the Mary Lowell Leary Professor of Medicine and director of the Vaccine Research Group at Mayo Clinic.
Whenever you're in a venue with hundreds of thousands of people gathering, particularly from all corners of the world, you automatically run increased risk, Dr. Poland says. The people around you may not have the same immunization programs or the same standards of personal cleanliness or food safety, he adds.
Besides illnesses such as pertussis, measles, mumps, colds and flu, other heightened dangers in places with large numbers of people passing through include respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis; vermin such as head lice and bedbugs; food-borne sickness such as E. coli, salmonella, hepatitis A and traveler's diarrhea; and skin conditions including athlete's foot and staph infections.
Dr. Poland offers these tips for sidestepping illness:
And if you are or recently have been at a mass gathering such as the Olympics and aren't feeling well, seek medical attention.
"If you do develop signs of illness, you need to be evaluated," Dr. Poland says. "You don't know if it's a simple virus, a complicated virus, bacteria, or even unfortunately, with this many people from around the world something of greater concern such as tuberculosis."
All of that said, there is no need to take precautions to an extreme, such as wearing a face mask in public, unless you are ill or there is a known epidemic, he says.
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