Philly Hospitals Warned About Dengue, Polio for Pope Francis Visit

Foreign visitors might bring unique ailments with them.


Hundreds of thousands — perhaps a million or more — people are expected in Philadelphia this weekend for Pope Francis, and where there are people, there are germs and disease. And where there are lots of people and their germs and diseases crammed into one area, well, you have to take precautions.

Earlier this week, the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health’s Division of Disease Control sent out an advisory to hospitals and the greater medical community in Philadelphia, reminding them of the potential for illnesses that we’re not used to seeing here.

“The healthcare community should be prepared for a variety of infectious diseases and a potential surge of patients,” reads the advisory. “All suspect and confirmed cases of communicable diseases should be reported immediately” to health authorities.

The advisory goes on to list the top countries in attendance for the World Meeting of Families, based on data obtained from advance registrations, and then lists the infectious diseases that are associated with those countries.

If you’re visiting from Australia, you might have brought Dengue Fever with you. If you’re from Poland, Hepatitis C. Australia and Poland are associated with only one illness each.

But some countries are associated with a bevy of things you probably don’t want to catch, like African Sleeping Sickness (Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria) and Japanese Encephalitis (Pakistan and Vietnam). Nigeria tops the list with eleven diseases, including malaria, polio and tuberculosis.

Department of Health spokesperson Jeff Moran says that there’s nothing to be alarmed about. “We routinely issue advisories on timely issues to hospitals and the medical community,” he points out.

The Department of Public Health has also published diagnosis and treatment guidelines for exposure to biological, chemical and radiological agents. Maybe it’s a good time to go light a candle and pray that we don’t have to worry about any of this.