The International Olympic Committee believe authorities in Brazil are taking “significant steps” to combat the Zika virus in the run-up to this summer’s Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Cases of the virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, have been rising across the country and the rest of the Americas and is a major cause for concern ahead of the Opening Ceremony onAugust 5.
Symptoms include fevers, rashes, joint pain and conjunctivitis while pregnant women have been advised not to travel due to a link between the virus and microcephaly – a condition which can lead to babies being born with small heads and under-developed brains.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has vowed to wage a “house-by-house fight” against the virus ahead of the Olympics and the IOC’s Medical and Scientific Commission, chaired by World Archery’s President Uğur Erdener, seem confident in the work that is being done.
“In general, the Brazilian authorities are taking significant steps to deal with Zika, as they have recently announced that over 200,000 members of the armed forces and health workers will be engaged across the country, going from house to house to distribute leaflets and dispense advice about how to combat the mosquitos and the virus,” said Erdener.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is due to hold a crisis meeting on Monday (February 1) to decide if Zika should be treated as a global emergency, with 1.5 million cases in Brazil.
“The International Olympic Committee is closely monitoring the situation with Zika in Brazil,” Erdener said.
“We are also in close communication with the WHO and the Rio 2016 Organising Committee on this topic.
“On its side, Rio 2016 is in regular contact with the Brazilian Ministry of Health and the Municipal Health Department, which are the responsible authorities on health issues in Brazil and in Rio.
“All parties are taking action to address this topic, and are following developments closely.”
Urdener, a 65-year-old IOC member from Turkey and a qualified doctor, added that various measures would be taken around Games venues.
“A plan has already been put in place for the Games venues in the lead up to and at Games time, which will see them inspected on a daily basis in order to ensure that any puddles of stagnant water – where the mosquitos breed – are removed, therefore minimising the risk of athletes and visitors coming into contact with mosquitos,” he said.
“Rio 2016 will also continue to follow the virus prevention and control measures provided by the authorities, and will provide the relevant guidance to Games athletes and visitors.
“It is also important to note that the Rio 2016 Games will take place during the winter months of August and September, when the drier, cooler climate significantly reduces the presence of mosquitos and therefore the risk of infection.”
The United States National Institutes of Health claim to have two potential Zika vaccines in development, one of which is based on an experimental West Nile vaccine that could be repurposed.
National Olympic Committees have been advised by the IOC to consult with authorities in their country for the latest advice.
- By Dan Palmer
- This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, www.insidethegames.biz