Football fever not Dengue Fever

23 May 2014

Australian soccer fans are unlikely to be at high risk of dengue fever at next month’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Australian National University researchers say.

Their comments have been published in Lancet Infectious Diseases, accompanying a paper assessing risks of dengue at the twelve match venues.

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease that has been increasing in Brazil in recent decades, but lead author Dr David Harley said there is no cause for alarm for Australian football fans.

“Young children and people who are sick with some other disease are among those most at risk. These are not the people who would be travelling to the World Cup,” said Dr Harley, who co-authored the paper with Dr Elvina Viennet, both from the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at ANU.

“The Brazilian public health system is very good, and very experienced with anti-mosquito campaigns for the last hundred years. We would expect that they will already be using this experience to tackle the mosquito problem at the stadiums and airports,” said Dr Harley.

“However, travellers should certainly be aware that the risk of dengue cannot be completely eliminated.”

A paper by other researchers in Lancet Infectious Diseases examined the risk of dengue infections in the 12 cities which will host World Cup games. Three of the cities, Recife, Fortaleza and Natal, were considered high risk, with the remainder rated at low or medium risk.

Dr Harley said foreign spectators attending games in those cities are unlikely to start epidemics when they return home, and the risk of a dengue epidemic in Australia following the world cup would be low.

“Dengue is not endemic to Australia, but there are increasingly frequent epidemics in North Queensland, which commonly originate from travellers from Papua New Guinea or Indonesia,” he said.

“After the World Cup dengue might come in from Brazil, although it will be winter time in northern Australia and that lowers risk.”