Published On: Sun, Feb 14th, 2016

Rio Olympics 2016: The varying views concerning Zika

According to Marcos Espinal, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Department of Contagious Diseases, the estimates of Zika virus in Latin America is around 2 or 3 million infections, Outbreak News Today reports.



Brazil, the host of the 2016 Rio Olympic games, has seen an estimated 1.3 million cases, Espinal notes.

The scourge of Zika in Brazil and the possible serious risks in the form of microcephaly and Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), not to mention other viruses transmitted by the same Aedes mosquito vector like dengue fever, which is a major issue in Brazil, has produced different responses across the spectrum of sports, politics, public health  and ethics.

Brazil President Dilma Roussef said Brazil will have considerable success fighting mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus and outbreak will not compromise the upcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this August.

She has reacted to the rapidly spreading epidemic by deploying 100’s of thousand of military troops to do all kinds of work from educating the public to removing mosquito breeding sites.

Clearly, Roussef has a lot riding on a successful Olympic games, particularly financial.

Some experts disagree with the Brazilian President and say the games should be moved or canceled. Renown bioethicist, Dr. Arthur Caplan and a colleague wrote in Forbes earlier this month that to host the Games at a site teeming with Zika, an outbreak the World Health Organization has labelled a “public health emergency of international concern,” is, quite simply, irresponsible.

By the time the Games roll around, many fans aren’t likely to attend. The media will report on nothing but mosquitos and birth defects, more than a few athletes and coaching staffs will balk at competing in Rio, and Brazil will be sinking further into debt trying to battle an epidemic while paying for the Games.

The IOC needs to either move the Games, postpone them, or cancel them. Prevention is the best course in the face of a serious threat to humanity.

Last week, USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said, “Team USA looks forward to the Games and we did not, would not and will not prevent athletes from competing for their country should they qualify”, after false reports emerged saying the USOC has advised U.S. athletes to reconsider competing in Rio due to the Zika virus.



“We are closely monitoring the situation through the CDC and have ongoing contact with the International Olympic Committee, the organizing officials in Rio, the World Health Organization and infectious disease specialists with expertise in tropical diseases, including the Zika virus,” Sandusky told ABC News in an email. “Additionally, we’re taking steps to ensure that our delegation and those affiliated with Team USA are aware of the CDC’s recommendations regarding travel to Brazil.”

Just days ago, U.S. Olympic Committee said they will hire two infectious disease specialists to advise potential Olympians who are worried about the Zika outbreak in Brazil.

In Australia, their Olympic team’s medical director said athletes should be alert but not alarmed at the spreading Zika virus in Brazil. Dr David Hughes believes polluted waters at the sailing venue will pose greater risks to athletes than the mosquito-borne Zika virus at the Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Health officials in the Philippines are taking a somewhat more seriously, actually considering barring athletes from going to the Games.

Lyndon Lee Suy, DOH spokesman, said yesterday the department will come out with a recommendation on whether or not Filipino athletes should be allowed to join the games before the start of the Olympics in August.

“If the (Zika) cases are still high, then maybe we shouldn’t allow them to go. But if it is already under control, why should we prevent them from joining?” Lee Suy asked.

He said they would have to assess the situation by July, then come up with an advisory.


Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today and the Executive Editor of The Global DispatchIn addition, he hosts the radio talk program, Outbreak News This Week in the Tampa Bay area

Follow @bactiman63

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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