Music festivals are glorious hotbeds of disease

Merriment, or bubonic plague?
Merriment, or bubonic plague?
Image: Reuters/Olivia Harris
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All hail the summer music festival, the most glitzy, increasingly popular—and increasingly lucrative—phenomenon in the entertainment industry at the moment.

Yet the casually exorbitant spending of festivals’ wealthy attendants isn’t the only malaise in the air at these bustling events. So is actual disease.

Lollapalooza Colombia—an inaugural South American version of the Chicago-based festival—was slated for mid-September, until it was abruptly canceled, apparently because headlining act Rihanna was concerned about the Zika virus.

And just last week, the UK’s public health agency put out a statement warning music fans that events like the popular Glastonbury festival are the “ideal place” for measles to spread. According to the agency, England has seen 234 confirmed cases of measles linked to festivals and other public events between January and June this year—a huge jump from the 54 confirmed cases in the same period last year.

“People are urged to be aware of the symptoms of measles, such as a high fever and rash, and not to attend festivals if they are unwell,” said the organization in its statement. Other contagious illnesses that have been linked to festivals in the past include the flu, salmonella, e.coli, and awful norovirus.

Put a crowd of several thousand together in an enclosed space, and it makes sense that infectious illnesses would travel like wildfire. That risk only worsens when you factor in the fact that festival-goers are often sweaty, dehydrated, and intoxicated, not to mention that they’re sharing public spaces like food stands and portable toilets.

As a 2013 research paper on the subject notes:

Fecal-oral and respiratory transmissions of pathogens result from non-compliance with hygiene rules, inadequate sanitation and insufficient vaccination coverage. Sexual transmission of infectious diseases may also occur and is likely to be underestimated and underreported.

If that doesn’t take some of the glamor out of Coachella, nothing will.