Travellers to China warned about dog bites

An estimated 600,000 foreign visitors and athletes, and as many as 2 million Chinese are expected to visit the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

According to researchers from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those travelling to Beijing for the Olympics need to worry less about catching some exotic disease and more about dog bites.

An international team, led by Dr. Nina Marano examined surveillance data collected from travel and tropical-medicine clinics worldwide and found that only rarely have travellers to China become infected with a tropical or parasitic disease and there were no reported cases of malaria or dengue fever.

However in the past 10 years, dog bites, respiratory infections and diarrhea have been some of the biggest health threats to travellers to China.

The researchers say minor injuries such as muscle strains and joint sprains, have also been common among visitors to China and they suggest this might possibly be related to the low construction and safety standards in some public places.

According to the researchers travellers need to be cautious about dog bites as China has the second highest rate of human rabies cases in the world.

The CDC offers travellers advice on how to make their trip safer by taking precautions such as ensuring all vaccinations are up to date and getting some professional health travel advice before the trip.

The CDC says, travellers in China should "avoid all animals" and anyone bitten by an animal should wash the wound promptly and seek reliable medical care.

The CDC also warns travellers to wash their hands frequently to lessen the risk of contracting a respiratory or gastrointestinal infection and in order to avoid the risk of diarrheal illnesses, to eat only fully cooked, hot meals, and fruits and vegetables that they wash and peel themselves.

The CDC recommends wearing comfortable walking shoes and taking care when crossing streets and using public transport.

Dr. Marano says using common sense such as 'washing your hands, watching your step, and not petting stray dogs', while in Beijing can help keep you healthy.

The team used 1998-2007 data gathered by the GeoSentinel Surveillance Network and analyzed by GeoSentinel and CDC experts to assess illnesses among the 2,500 travellers to China.

The GeoSentinel Network was founded by the CDC and the International Society of Travel Medicine and is made up of 41 travel medicine clinics worldwide that provide traveller care and track travel-related health data.

The study is published in American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, online June 26, 2008.

For more CDC recommendations for Olympic travelers, athletes and health-care providers, please visit http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentOlympics2008.aspx.

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