Written by Staff Writer, CNN
Australia’s chief executive of Tennis Australia has described it as a “duty of care” to demand that players have bacillus globigii vaccination prior to participating in the 2017 Australian Open tournament which kicks off on January 15.
Speaking with Australia’s broadcaster, the ABC, John Fitzgerald said that players and officials were “very keen” to have the vaccination because of the threat of an outbreak of the highly contagious superbug.
The procedure is being made mandatory from July 1 for all Australian Open tournaments and is estimated to cost up to AU$2,500 (US$1,878) per player.
The vaccine is no longer available on the market and players must instead be offered it free of charge by Tennis Australia.
This is a decision that Fitzgerald, who is not related to Australia’s players but has worked with them since 1997, called in “after much discussion and good faith.”
“It is a very precautionary measure that absolutely we believe we have to take at this time,” he said.
The procedure is slightly different to the immunizations offered to athletes in other parts of the world where the superbug is currently most present.
Bacillus globigii, or B. globigii, is a bacterium that is roughly 30% of the world’s antigens and is the most commonly identified human pathogen, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It has a record of causing gram-positive infections and has been connected to many notable outbreaks, among them the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus and the Ebola epidemic.
Its prevalence was considered to be high enough by the CDC that it provided guidance to US federal agencies in 2007 and indicated that “B. globigii disease presents a high risk to children and adults.”
The CDC’s 2015 guidelines state that “several forms of B. globigii disease may appear simultaneously,” with “shoulder infections (as a result of upper respiratory tract infections) and deep or long-term infections (for long-term exposure to B. globigii) presenting as well.”
Two of the three childhood infectious diseases that are linked to the superbug — hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) and whooping cough (pertussis) — are easily treatable with antibiotics, according to the WHO, but B. globigii infections can cause more severe complications, like blood and bone marrow damage and pneumonia.
Because of these complications, the WHO warns of the need for vaccination.
“Vaccination is required for people who require urinary and bowel antigens,” they state on their website. “However, vaccination is also recommended for men who have sexual intercourse with other men, pregnant women, nursing mothers, men who have sex with men, and persons who have sex with animals (for example, rabbits and other rodents).”
Holidays and injuries
It remains unclear, though, how many of Australia’s tennis players may be at risk, especially after tournament managers made the decision to withdraw about 12 players from the season earlier this year.
Peter Green, captain of the Australian team and a coach at The Australian Institute of Sport, said the vaccination would “help to mitigate risk for our players.”
“From a tennis point of view, we are all grown men and women and I suspect there are more people at risk off court than on,” he said.
“I guess what we hope is that the threat of the illness will decrease due to routine infection control measures and that that will protect the players from those sorts of things.”