Starting August 5, the summer 2016 Olympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Popular estimates suggest that around 500,000 tourists will descend upon Rio to watch the games, which leads to discussion and concern of the Zika outbreak in Brazil.
There has been some worry that the attempts to eradicate the virus-infected mosquitoes would prove insufficient, leaving athletes and spectators at risk of contracting the virus.
An article published this week in Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that the risk for international travellers contracting Zika is low — it estimates between three and 37 travellers will be infected. The study was conducted under the assumption that travellers would be subject to the same infectious conditions as local residents; it incorporated data from the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which involved a similar scare regarding the mosquito-transmitted Dengue virus.
Although the threat of tourists acquiring and transmitting the Zika virus to other populations remains, the probability of this scenario is less likely than what estimates earlier this year showed.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has rejected the notion of moving or postponing the summer Olympics in Rio. Back in May, a WHO representative explained that “based on current assessment, cancelling or changing the location of the 2016 Olympics will not significantly alter the international spread of the Zika virus.”
However, the thought of taking precautions is not unfounded. Currently, vaccines for the virus are still in the experimental stage.
As the Zika virus causes microcephaly in babies — a birth defect transmitted to the children of an infected mother — pregnant women in particular should be cautious about their health when attending the Rio Olympics.