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HPA announces it is 'Games ready'

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has announced it is ready for the Olympic and Paralympic Games taking place in London this summer.

It is claimed the agency has put in place “world-class systems” in order to monitor and respond to any outbreaks of infectious diseases or environment hazards.

New diagnostic tools will mean laboratory testing for gastrointestinal illnesses can be processed within 24 hours rather than the typical several days.   

The HPA will also broaden its survellience to include services more likely to be used by international visitors such as emergency departments, walk-in-centres and out-of-hours GP services.

Web-based reporting tools will also allow clinicians to report potentially new and emerging infections.

“These new and enhanced systems will provide the first indication of emerging infections in the community and hospitals if they are to occur,” said Dr Brian McCloskey, HPA Olympics Lead and Director for London.

“Our experts will analyse surveillance data daily to identify issues of public health significance that could have implications for the Games. We will be providing expert advice to clinicians, the Olympic organisers and Government on how to respond to and limit any threat to public health.”

Risk assessments carried out by the HPA have indicated there is only a “slight increased risk” of infectious disease during the Games, such as gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses.

Dr McCloskey said the reality is that serious outbreaks of infectious diseases during the Olympic and Paralympic events are “rare”.

Justin McCracken, Chief Executive of the HPA, said the agency intends to continue using its enhanced syndromic surveillance systems after the Games have finished to serve as a legacy and improve public health.