Winter Olympics: Canada team doctor calls for swine flu jabs

(AFP)

Olympic athletes should be among the first to be vaccinated against the deadly H1N1 flu virus, Canada's team doctor said Tuesday, amid fears an outbreak may spoil the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

Bob McCormack, the Canadian team's chief doctor, told public television channel CBC that the Games in Vancouver could provide a breeding ground for the H1N1 virus and that athletes should therefore be vaccinated quickly.

"The Olympic Games is a global virus get-together," he said.

"If you have hundreds of countries getting together with thousands of athletes in a small, contained area of the village, it's a breeding ground for viruses."

However, Canada's health minister Leona Aglukkaq has already indicated she will not make vaccinating Olympic athletes a priority, stating there was enough time before the Games begin in February for competitors to be vaccinated.

But McCormack argued many athletes are busy training and attending pre-Olympic competitions abroad beginning in November, and thus should be vaccinated now.

Some Canadian athletes were reportedly told they would have to vacate the athletes' village if they come down with the flu during the Games.

But the International Olympic Committee has said it will not quarantine athletes who get sick at the Games.

via-amc/jkb

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