World Cup Attendees Could Spread Deadly Flu Virus Around the Globe, Warn Heath Officials

Dr. William Schaffner, a professor who specializes in preventive medicine, health policy, and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, explains the risks and just how concerned the public should be about this deadly virus.

World Cup fans may be bringing home the one souvenir no one is hoping to get this holiday season — the flu.

Not just any flu either, but a potentially deadly form of the virus that has been wreaking havoc on a number of guests and reporters attending this year's tournament in Qatar.

Dr. William Schaffner, a professor who specializes in preventive medicine, health policy, and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, explains the risks and just how concerned the public should be about this deadly virus in a interview with Inside Edition's Ann Mercogliano.

"The viruses don't need passports," Dr. Schaffner says. "They will be coming home with all of the participants as well as all of the spectators."

The  Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SCDL) released a report stating that 765,859 international visitors attended the first 17 days of the tournament in Qatar. Many attended more than one match as well based on the cumulative stadium attendance for the tournament's first 52 matches, which totaled 2.65 million according to the SCDL.

Those packed stadiums and raucous fans have left some feeling less than great.

There have been no confirmed reports of any American contracting this virus, but after sports journalist Grant Wahl passed away last Friday, a number of people were quick to point out that he had complained of respiratory troubles just one day prior to his death. 

In an episode of his podcast, "Fútbol with Grant Wahl," taped the day before he suddenly collapsed while cover the Argentina-Netherlands quarterfinal, Wahl revealed to his listeners that he got sick shortly after arriving in Qatar.

"My body told me, even after the U.S. went out, 'Dude, you are not sleeping enough,' and it rebelled on me. So I've had a case of bronchitis this week," Wahl said during the episode. "I've been to the medical clinic at the media center twice now, including today. I'm feeling better today, I basically canceled everything on this Thursday, that I had, and napped."

Wahl also detailed the constant cough he had been experiencing for a few days at that point.

"I'm coughing a lot. Everyone's coughing here. This is by no means limited to me. So many journalists have got a crazy cough that sounds like a death rattle sometimes," Wahl told his listeners. "The only thing that's surprising to me is, there isn't that much COVID here. I thought there'd be a real issue with that. We're not really seeing COVID cases, we're just seeing a lot of general sickness — coughing, colds. And I can't wait to be on the other side of what I have, but I'm going to be ready to go."

At the same time, a journalist who sat next to Wahl when he died on Friday noted that he had been laughing at a comment on Twitter just moments before he passed away.

"I’m in shock. I was sitting next to him tonight. He was working on his story on his laptop, it was about 4 minutes before the end of the extra time," Rafael Cores wrote on social media after learning of Wahl's death. "He was laughing at a joke we saw on Twitter only minutes earlier. I can’t believe it. My deepest condolences to @GrantWahl’s family."

Qatar on Monday honored their promise to repatriate Wahl's body so that a medical examiner could determine cause of death, U.S. officials announced early that morning. An embassy consular officer accompanied the body on the trip from Qatar to the JFK International Airport in New York City.

That private autopsy request comes from Dr. Céline Gounder, a journalist and physician who specializes in infectious diseases and global health. She is also Wahl's wife.

She responded to her husband's death last week on Twitter,  writing: "I'm in complete shock."

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