PAHO reissues health alert to detect measles and rubella in travelers returning from the World Cup

Washington, D.C., 9 July 2010 (PAHO) — With just two days remaining before the final 2010 FIFA World Cup (South Africa) champion is known, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is reissuing a health alert to encourage the early detection of measles and rubella in travelers returning from Africa to their countries of origin.

The alert is being disseminated on a poster, strategically placed in major international airports in Latin America and the Caribbean, that gives recommendations on how to prevent the importation of measles and rubella viruses. As thousands of soccer fans return to the Americas, PAHO is urging countries not to miss any opportunity to detect travelers who may be infected with the measles and/or rubella viruses. Measles was eliminated from the Americas in 2002, and rubella in 2009.

The poster, which is available on the PAHO website, recommends that any resident of the Americas, including athletes participating in the World Cup, be protected against measles and rubella prior to their departure. Travelers returning from the World Cup should be alert for symptoms such as fever, rash, cough, runny nose, or conjunctivitis, and if they suspect they have measles or rubella, they should stay at home (or in their hotel room, if still traveling) except to seek medical care. Travelers who develop symptoms should avoid school, work and any close contact with others for seven days after a rash appears.

In general, travelers who are not vaccinated against measles and rubella are at risk of being infected with these diseases when visiting countries where the viruses are circulating. Special efforts should be made to ensure the protection of women of childbearing age to prevent possible infection with rubella virus during pregnancy.

Health care workers in both the public and private sectors have been alerted to the possibility of importations of these diseases and reminded to report cases immediately.

Since January 2009, several African countries have reported measles outbreaks: South Africa has reported 16,594 confirmed measles cases[1], and the outbreak has reached all nine of its provinces. The official games of the 2010 FIFA World Cup took place in Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Nelspruit, Polokwane, Port Elizabeth, Pretoria, and Rustenburg. All eight teams representing countries of the Americas played in at least two of the provinces.

PAHO was established in 1902 and is the world's oldest public health organization. It works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of the people of the Americas and serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).


[1] Data until 21 June 1010.  Source: National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) website.

For more information please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Advisor, Knowledge Management and Communication, PAHO/WHO, Tel +1 202 974 3459 — cell +1 202 316 5679, fax +1 202 974 3143.