Do Sports Events Give Microbes a Chance to Score?

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Science  08 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6086, pp. 1224-1225
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6086.1224

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This summer, Europe is hosting two of the biggest sporting events in the world: the European Football Championship and the Olympic Games. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, its European counterpart, the ECDC, and the World Health Organization have all warned spectators to make sure their vaccinations—especially against measles, rubella, and polio—are up to date. But today's sports tournaments are just one category of mass gatherings that pose potential health risks, along with rock concerts, political rallies, and massive religious events. Such events have given rise to a new field called "mass gathering health." Mass gatherings can also lead to heat exhaustion, dehydration, or deadly stampedes. But most attention is going to disease outbreaks because mass gatherings offer microbes unique opportunities to spread and pathogens can continue to sicken or kill long after the event is over.

  • * Kai Kupferschmidt is a science writer in Berlin.