It's still seven months until the London 2012 Olympic games take place but already plans to ensure the health and safety of the competitors and the public are being formulated and put in place, using information from a number of health experts.
According to a series of six reports in 'The Lancet' mass gatherings, such as the crowds expected to visit London during the Olympics pose a risk to the health and welfare of people with everything from diseases, accidents and terrorist attacks being assessed. The reports were compiled following outbreaks of infectious diseases, crowd stampedes and other incidents at events such as the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The series, which will be published in full in the January, February and March editions of the magazine and will be also be published online, point to a need for governments and health authorities to have specific plans to cope with mass gatherings. The magazine says, "Managing such events requires providing for all eventualities from infectious disease outbreaks to security against terrorist attacks. Thus mass gatherings health is a topic that goes beyond the scope of typical public health provision"
The Health Protection Agency in the UK will be using something called the Real-time Syndromic Surveillance Team (ReSST) which will be on full alert for the Games with emergency departments and out of hours GP services now being brought into the plan. The H.P.A. agency website says they will be producing a daily public health report that will "include information on public health threats, incidents and patterns of disease across the UK, and any significant international event that may pose a threat. Assurance will be provided that the appropriate public health response is being undertaken to protect all those taking part in and visiting the Games."
The World Health Organisation has a Global Alert and Response department which helps host nations for mass gatherings such as the 2012 Olympics by providing guidance to the host nation and its health department. The W.H.O. has provided help and assistance for numerous events in the past, learning lessons to help their response to the risks of mass gatherings and enabling them to help host nations with events that bring people of different nations, cultures and languages together .
The BBC spoke to Prof Ziad Memish of the Ministry of Health in regards to the Hajj pilgrimage who said:
"Conventional concepts of disease and crowd control do not adequately address the complexity of mass gatherings. Mass gatherings have been associated with death and destruction - catastrophic stampedes, collapse of venues, crowd violence and damage to political and commercial infrastructure."
However in the same BBC report, Professor Brian McCloskey who is in charge of the health preparations for London 2012 said that infections are not historically a problem at Olympic games. He said "The issue for us is to make sure the right system is in place to respond."
The London 2012 Olympics are set to be a huge event and with all these preparations in place, visitors and locals can be assured that the health care system is geared up to cope.