David Kerr: Welcoming the world

David KerrOver the next few weeks more than 14 000 athletes from 205 Olympic teams and 170 paralympic teams, and 4 million spectators are expected to attend the London 2012 Olympic Games. For the athletes the British Olympic committee has advised against too much hand-shaking in case they pick up some performance damaging infectious disease. The rest of us have to face the prospect of London becoming a potential centre of communicable disease this summer due to the sudden influx of tourists from around the world.

Aside from the potential health impacts, there are also a number of cultural nuances that Olympic visitors will have to deal with when they arrive in the UK. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States have helpfully posted advice for travellers to the Games. These include a translation of quirky words used by UK locals to describe symptoms such as “gip” and “giddy” and the CDC also encourages everyone to have appropriate “jabs” before setting off. There is an explanation that paracetamol is actually acetaminophen and that the term “surgery” is referring to a doctor’s office rather than a man with a mask and knife. Curiously the CDC has also felt the need to explain that “surgical spirit” may have a different significance for our American visitors.

For times of need there are explanations of the meaning of the terms “loo” and “lorry” with the guidance that if you are hit by the latter “to call 999 and not 911 and ask for A&E and not the ER.” Visitors are also advised to wash their hands frequently or use a hand sanitizer and to “cough and sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve.” Latex condoms are a sine qua non for travellers and condoms are provided free throughout the Olympic village. However, the most hopeful advice from the CDC, given the miserable summer weather we have had until recently, is that “when outdoors during the day, wear sunscreen, stay hydrated, and seek shade if you get too hot!”

David Kerr wears many hats, sometimes at the same time—diabetologist, editor of Diabetes Digest, researcher, and founder of VoyageMD.com, a free service for travellers with diabetes. You can follow him on Twiitter (@GoDiabetesMD) and Linkedin. He holds a small amount of stock in CellNovo (a new insulin pump company) and Axon Telehealth.