Safe and Healthy Travel to an International Mass Gathering
International events draw huge crowds and come with unique risks to travelers. Whether they are planned years in advance (Olympics) or happen more spontaneously (Nelson Mandela's funeral), mass gatherings are associated with crowding at venues, poor hygiene from temporary food and sanitation facilities, and challenging security situations. The risk of infectious diseases increases because of crowded conditions and the influx of attendees from around the world.
A mass gathering can be thought of as any gathering of people that is large enough to strain local resources. Typically, they involve a large number of people (sometimes numbering in the millions) at a specific location, for a specific purpose, for a defined time frame.
Before Your Trip
If you plan to attend an international mass gathering, take steps to protect your health and safety. First, consult with a travel medicine provider at least 4 weeks before your departure date. This will allow adequate time to receive most vaccinations. Discuss your itinerary and any planned activities with your provider so that he or she can make customized recommendations to ensure a healthy and safe journey.
Also discuss your medical history, to ensure any existing medical conditions are well controlled before departure. If a travel medicine provider is not available near you, a primary care provider may be able to ensure you have the adequate vaccinations and health information necessary. Visit the CDC's Travelers' Health website to learn more about specific destinations and view any travel notices for your destination.
It's also a good idea to register travel plans with the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. You can subscribe to notifications on travel warnings, travel alerts, and other information for specific destinations as well as ensure that the Department of State knows where you are if you have serious legal, medical, or financial difficulties while traveling. In the event of an emergency at home, STEP can also help friends and family at home reach you.
During Your Trip
- Wash your hands regularly (use hand sanitizer if facilities are not available)
- Use insect repellent and sunscreen
- Choose only bottled water and foods served hot to avoid food poisoning
- Carry bottled water to stay hydrated
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Study a map of the event and visualize an emergency evacuation. Step by step, what would you do?
- Locate emergency exits and arrange a place to meet your family or traveling companions if you get separated.
- In case of a fire, remember that heat and smoke rise; crouch down low to get oxygen.
Having a plan will help you stay safe and healthy during your trip, and make it more likely for you to bring home happy memories rather than a stomach bug.