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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

Rio 2016 Olympics/Paralympics Games Brazil

The 2016 Olympics and Paralympics are scheduled to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 5–21 August and 7–18 September respectively. Olympic football matches will also be played in 5 other cities; Manaus (in the Amazon region), Salvador, Sao Paulo, Brasilia and Belo Horizonte.

The potential health risks will vary between individuals attending the Olympics and Paralympics depending on the football stadia being visited, the amount of time spent in Brazil, further travel around the country, onward travel to another destination and leisure pursuits.

Other general factors will also be taken into consideration e.g. age, pre-existing illness, medical treatment, pregnancy etc.

Preparation

See Your Doctor 6–8 Weeks Before you go

There are vaccine recommendations for travellers going to Brazil and your doctor or nurse can best advise what is appropriate for you. Be sure to allow enough time for vaccination, ideally 6–8 weeks before you want to travel.

Malaria is a risk in certain parts of Brazil and antimalarial tablets may be recommended.

Travel and Health Insurance

  • It is strongly recommended that travellers obtain adequate personal insurance (including repatriation if necessary) when travelling. There is no reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK. Medical treatment can be very costly and the British Embassy cannot help finance this.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Advice

  • Check the FCO website Foreign travel advice for Brazil before you travel, for updated information on safety/security, terrorism, natural disasters, local laws and customs.
  • Check and take with you the contact details of British embassies in Brazil.  Contact details for the embassy in Rio can be accessed here.
  • The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has produced a guidance leaflet Stay ahead of the Games: travel checklist for those travelling to the Rio Olympics/Paralympics.

Main Points of Health Advice for Travellers

Personal Safety

  • Familiarise yourself with Rio de Janerio and the areas you will be staying in and visiting before you travel using online resources or guide books.
  • Take a Portuguese phrase book, or learn some basic word and phrases so you can ask for help when needed.
  • Carry a photocopy of your passport with you, but leave the actual passport in a secure place in your hotel.
  • Keep mobile phone in credit with battery fully charged, stay in touch.
  • Pedestrians should be careful crossing roads as Brazilian drivers may not give way to pedestrians.
  • Road traffic accidents are common in Brazil – choose safe, licensed modes of transport and always wear a seat belt.
  • Try to avoid excessive alcohol which increases the risk of injury, assault and high risk sex.
  • Avoid walking alone at night in unfamiliar places.

Staying Healthy

During the Olympics/Paralympics many sporting venues and surrounding areas are likely to be crowded. To ensure you fully enjoy the experience, consider the following:

  • Large gatherings can cause separation from friends/group, pre-arrange a meeting place for such occasions.
  • Take note of emergency exits in the stadium.
  • Stay well hydrated, make sure you have access to safe, clean water and food.
  • Respiratory and gastrointestinal infections spread easily in large crowds, the following points reduce the risk:
    • wash hands with soap and water or disinfectant, especially after coughing and sneezing
    • use disposable tissues when coughing or sneezing and dispose of them appropriately
    • avoid hand contact with the eyes, nose and mouth
    • avoid direct contact with people who appear unwell, or use of their personal gadgets
    • maintain good personal hygiene.

Food and Water Precautions

Reduce your risk of travellers’ diarrhoea whilst in Brazil by practicing good food and water precautions. There are some general rules of food and water precautions. While it may not be practical to follow all of these rules, all of the time, applying them where possible will reduce the risk.

  • Personal hygiene when eating and drinking is very important. Where possible, wash hands prior to handling food, eating and always after using the toilet. Handwashing facilities may be poor or not always available, therefore it is advisable to carry sanitising gel or hand wipes at all times.
  • Ensure that clean dishes, cups and utensils are used; use alcohol wipes to clean them if necessary.
  • If using street vendors, where possible, choose food that is freshly cooked to a high temperature and served immediately while still hot.

Further information on food and water precautions and travellers' diarrhoea.

Illness During Travel

  • If you become sick or injured during your trip visit a local doctor or nurse.  If you need urgent care, dial 192 and ask for an ambulance. Contact your insurance company as soon as possible if you required medical treatment.
  • Travellers to Brazil are entitled to emergency medical treatment in public hospitals; these are often crowded in large cities. Proof of health insurance or sufficient funds is needed to access private medical clinics/hospitals.

Vaccine Preventable Diseases

There are vaccine recommendations for travellers going to Brazil and your doctor or nurse can best advise what is appropriate for you. Be sure to allow enough time for vaccination, ideally 6–8 weeks before you want to travel. In particular, be aware of:

Yellow Fever

  • It is essential to fully discuss all areas that may be visited whilst in Brazil and any likeliehood of onward travel to another country as vaccination may be required for both personal protection and certificate purposes. Yellow fever vaccination is recommended for those visiting the very popular tourist destination of Iguazu Falls.
  • There are 5 football stadia being used during the Olympics and the risk of yellow fever varies between them, depending on location. Your GP or Practice Nurse should be able to advise you. This vaccine may have to be administered at a specialist clinic.
  • Locate your nearest centre in Scotland.
  • Locate your nearest centre England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Rabies

  • Brazil is designated by the World Health Organisation as a high risk country for rabies in animals.
    • For a short trip to attend the Olympics/Paralympics only, awareness of the rabies risk and the advice to avoid contact with animals (including bats) and report any bites for assessment, may be all that is required.
  • Any bites/scratches/licks on the face by any warm blooded animal in Brazil constitutes a potential rabies risk. Saliva should be thoroughly washed off with soap and water and the wound irrigated with iodine solution or alcohol. This is very effective in removing virus from the bite, providing it is prompt and thorough. Medical help must be sought immediately and not wait until return home.
  • Rabies vaccine may be recommended if you plan to extend your stay beyond the Olympics/Paralympics and travel to more remote/rural areas for more adventurous pursuits (particularly caving) where prompt access to the correct treatment of a bite may be difficult.
  • Further information on animal bites.

Insect-borne Diseases

A wide range of infections transmitted by biting insects are present in Brazil, the following are a list of the currently most widespread or severe diseases. 

It is advisable to purchase insect repellent in the UK prior to travel. See further information on mosquito bite avoidance.

Malaria

  • It is essential to fully discuss all areas that may be visited whilst in Brazil and any likeliehood of onward travel to another country as the risk of malaria may vary.
  • Rio de Janerio is located in a low to no malaria risk area of Brazil.
  • Only one football stadium used during this sporting event is located in a high risk area for malaria, the Arena Amazonai in Manaus. Awareness of the malaria risk, mosquito bite avoidance measures and antimalarial tablets are recommended for this area of Brazil.
  • Travellers to low to no risk areas of Brazil should practice good mosquito bite avoidance measures.

Zika Virus Infection

Zika virus (ZIKV) infection is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes which bite mainly during the day. It was first identified in Brazil in May 2015, and is now widespread; cases have been reported from all regions of the country. The Ministry of Health estimates between 500 000 to 1.5 million suspected ZIKV cases nationally.

Avoidance of mosquito bites, particularly during daylight hours, is recommended for all travellers.

Zika virus infection during pregnancy has been linked to birth defects. 

  • Pregnant women are advised to postpone non-essential travel to Brazil and the Olympics/Paralympics until this link has been fully clarified. 
    • Pregnant women who choose to travel to areas with active ZIKV transmission should check with their travel insurance companies that they are covered under their policy.
  • Women of child bearing age should practice bite avoidance and additionally use contraception during travel and for 8 weeks afterwards to avoid the risk of Zika virus infection in pregnancy.

Sexual transmission of ZIKV has been documented. Preventing sexual transmission of ZIKV for male and female travellers is discussed on the Zika Virus Infection page.

Dengue Fever

  • Dengue fever is a major problem in Brazil. In 2015, 1, 649 008 probable cases of dengue fever, the highest ever, were recorded. 
  • The dengue risk is seasonal, varying in different parts of the country. Dengue fever is more common in urban.
  • As there is no vaccine against dengue fever virus, travellers must take steps to avoid mosquito bites.
  • As many infections are spread by biting insects all travellers should take precautions to avoid insect bites as standard.

Sexual Health Risks

There are certain factors that increase the risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs):

  • Casual sexual relationships, particularly without the use of barrier protection.
  • Commercial sex workers may have high rates of infection.
  • In some countries commercial sex is very common and exposure to propositioning and even harassment is common. The unprepared traveller may be taken unawares and end up taking risks which would not be normal behaviour at home.
  • The use of recreational drugs and alcohol, can lead into risky sexual behaviour.
  • Infections may be asymptomatic but not non-infectious so they may be transmitted, unknowingly to subsequent sexual partners.

Safer Sex

  • Using good quality impermeable condoms with any casual partner is essential. Remember it is the barrier that protects against STIs, not spermicides contained within them.
  • Remember you won't always know who is infected!
  • Check expiry dates on condoms, only buy from a reputable source.
  • Ensure condoms are used correctly and consistently, for all forms of sexual activity, including oral sex. Donning condoms in the correct manner, before any contact is made is important, as is avoiding breaks and tears. STI transmission via skin to skin contact in particular will still occur where the condom barrier is not present.
  • It is important to bear in mind that while condoms will effectively reduce the possibility of transmission of most infections they are not 100% effective.

See further information on Sexual Health Risks.

Returning Travellers

  • Travellers returning home with a fever or feeling generally unwell, should contact their GP and tell them where they have been in Brazil and what they did there. They should also mention if they have been in a malaria or yellow fever risk area. Any animal bite/scratch/facial licks sustained abroad and treatment should be reported to the GP as there may be follow up treatment.
  • If malaria tablets were prescribed for the trip, it is important to continue once out of the risk area as directed.
  • Travellers returning from abroad who are concerned about their sexual health, should contact their local sexual health clinic and speak with a counsellor.

Further Information

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