2016 Rio Olympics: Brazil Assuages Fears over Zika Virus


Alex Enumah in Abuja

With barely two weeks to the commencement of the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, the government has assured all participants and visitors alike of its determination to host historic and disease-free games amidst fears of the dreaded Zika virus disease in that region.

While giving the assurance, the government of that country stated that the protection of the health of Brazilians and tourists going to the world event is a priority and as such all necessary measures have been put in place to protect everyone.

The assurance, which was given by the Minister of Health of Brazil, Ricardo Barros, was contained in a statement exclusively obtained by THISDAY in Abuja from the Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Brazil, Roberto Affaia.

Part of the statement reads, “Protecting the health of Brazilians and tourists coming to this world event is a priority to the federal government, which has pledged to put into effect appropriate measures to protect peoples’ health.

“I was recently in Geneva, Switzerland, and reaffirmed to the International Olympic Committee that we would never risk the health of athletes and tourists. Brazil is keeping all necessary care and measures so that the games are a historical milestone in sports”.

Barros claimed that the circulation of the Zika virus, spread by the Aedesaegypti mosquito, will not hinder the country from having a safe and unforgettable event for participants and spectators as, according to him, the risks are minimal.

“The country’s healthcare system is duly prepared for this big moment, with preventive actions in place against the Aedesaegypti, 24/7 monitoring in the six cities hosting the games and trained professionals who are qualified to attend to emergencies,” he said..

According to the statement, a study published by the University of Cambridge makes a forecast of less than one case of infection among the 500,000 tourists.

The statement further revealed that specialists from the World Health Organization (WHO) on June 14 corroborated that the risk of propagation of the disease is very low. It said during the games, trips to Rio will represent 0.25% of all travel to Zika-affected areas, according to United States’ CDC, while noting that overall, the virus is already circulating in 60 countries, and Brazil represents 15% of the exposed population.

The minister also observed that during the games, Brazil will be in winter time, which is when diseases spread by the Aedesaegypti hit their lower rate. “In addition to that, the mobilization actions to fight the mosquito, like home visits and public investment in monitoring and prevention, have caused an early fall of Zika rates – infection cases dropped 87% between February and May of the current year.