Athletes immunised for Beijing 2008
The Australian Olympic Committee guards against respiratory problems at the Games.
Last Modified: 17 Feb 2007 09:31 GMT
Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates says it's better to be safe than sorry [GALLO/GETTY]
Australian athletes expecting to go to the 2008 Beijing Olympics will begin vaccination courses against a variety of diseases, including hepatitis A and B, typhoid, polio, tetanus, whooping cough, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella and influenza over the next few weeks.
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) are looking to safeguard their athletes ahead of next year's Games, particularly against respiratory difficulties, with precautions also to be taken against bird flu, which exists in rural China.

Peter Baquie, team medical director, said despite the precautions against serious diseases, he expects respiratory difficulties to pose a greater problem for athletes, with air pollution to be the main cause in the hot and humid Chinese capital of nearly 15 million people.

"We'll be taking bucket-loads of upper and lower respiratory medication," Baquie told an AOC team meeting in Sydney on Saturday in early planning for the Beijing Games.

John Coates, AOC president, said Beijing Olympics organisers were making air pollution a priority.

"They are working with the (China's) State Environmental Protection Administration to ensure good air quality during the Games and we expect factories will be closed and cars kept off the roads to minimise the pollution," Coates said.

"This is simply a precautionary measure to ensure the athletes don't fall ill before or during competition.

"We have a responsibility to provide our athletes with adequate protection while they compete for Australia at the Games," Coates added.

Baquie played down fears of athletes contracting avian influenza while in China, saying that although there will also be precautions against bird flu, the chance of any athlete contracting it in Beijing was virtually nil.

Athletes will be advised to avoid poultry markets and check that any food they eat outside the Games village is properly cooked.

"Simple public health precautions will be enough to produce a zero risk," Baquie said.

Big medical bill

Around 1200 potential team members and officials will begin vaccination courses next week at a cost of around $235 per person, leaving the AOC with a bill topping $275,000.

"Beijing will introduce some medical challenges not encountered in recent Olympics," said Baquie.

The early immunisation program will provide protection for athletes competing in test events in China, and ensure that all athletes are up to date with their vaccinations before the Games which begin on August 8, 2008.

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