Millions of eyes will soon be on Vancouver, British Columbia to witness the 21st Winter Olympic Games, which opens on February 12th. The Paralympic Games will follow on March 14th. I was in Vancouver this past summer and construction for the games was already underway. It promises to be a spectacular competition. There will be speed skating, snowboarding, ski jumping, ice hockey, luge racing and other frozen delights.
There will be huge crowds converging on Vancouver to spectate the events. Large crowds can create another competition that is not part of the official Olympic schedule. Germs can spread through a crowd quickly like a brushfire, infecting thousands of people. For those who will be visiting, have you trained properly for the unofficial Olympic competition of Germs vs The Crowd?
The H1N1 (swine flu) virus or the seasonal flu virus do not tickets to get front row seats in Vancouver. In fact, they can occupy any seat at every event. For those procrastinators who have not yet been vaccinated, there is still time to get protected before you depart to Canada. Get the H1N1 and flu vaccines STAT!
Here are some common sense travel health and safety recommendations.
• Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccinations.
• Wear warm clothing including hats and gloves as hypothermia and frostbite can occur in the Canadian winter climate.
• Bring hand sanitizer and wash your hands with soap and water frequently.
• Apply proper sunscreen to exposed skin. Yes, you can get sunburn in the winter.
• Have a plan in place for contacting a local physician in the event you become ill.
• Verify if your medical insurance covers you in Canada.
• Take precautions to mimimize jet lag.
• Avoid contact with any ill individual.
• If you become ill, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then, wash or sanitize your hands immediately. To the extent you can avoid close contact with others, you will be performing a noble public health service.
The Olympic Torch Ceremony is less than 2 weeks away. The Winter Games will be exciting to watch on TV and will be an incredible thrill to witness in person. For those lucky enough to be in Vancouver, be cautious about the invisible competitors who may be stalking you and hoping for a victory. Make sure that they never make it to the winner’s circle.
Let the games begin!