America's North Shore Journal

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More than a medal – medical risks at the London Olympics

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USA in the UK

USA in the UK

The Summer Olympics will take place in London From July 27 to August 12, 2012. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will travel to England to see the show and they will be bringing lots of souvenirs home with them. Without precautions, those souvenirs may include mumps or measles.

The United Kingdom has been struggles with large numbers of cases of these two illnesses for a decade. Much of the British public lost faith in childhood vaccines in the late 1990′s when the now debunked Wakefield paper on a link between the MMR vaccine and autism was published. An 2009-20010 outbreak of mumps in the New York City region that grew to almost 2,000 patients was traced to one tourist who had traveled to England.

Number of laboratory confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales by month of onset: January 2007 – January 2012

Number of laboratory confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales by month of onset: January 2007 – January 2012, Health Protection Agency

Case counts for measles and mumps in England and Wales remain high. Both illnesses are highly contagious. Both are preventable by immunization. The Centers for Disease Control suggest that travelers to the United Kingdom ensure that their immunizations are up to date.

The CDC on measles:

The only vaccines available in the United States are the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and the measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccines. MMR has been used safely and effectively since the 1970s. A few people experience mild, temporary adverse reactions, such as joint pain, from the vaccine, but serious side effects are extremely rare. There is no link between MMR and autism.

Information and the latest data on the outbreak of measles and the outbreak of mumps in England can be found at the UK Health Protection Agency pages for those illnesses.

The United States embassey in London has lots of information for Americans who may want to attend the 2012 Olympics. The Centers for Disease Control have a comprehensive site covering the topics of illness or injury abroad. For Americans traveling to the United Kingdom, the State Department has this reminder:

While medical services are widely available, free care under the National Health System (NHS) is allowed only for UK residents and certain EU nationals. Tourists and short-term visitors will be charged for medical treatment in the United Kingdom. Charges may be significantly higher than those assessed in the United States. Travelers to the United Kingdom should ensure they have adequate medical insurance to cover the cost of any treatment received – please see additional insurance information below…

You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:

Does my policy apply when I’m out of the United States?
Will it cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or a medical evacuation?

In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.

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