Olympic Games will not be cancelled over Zika fears
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Olympic Games will not be cancelled over Zika fears

Brazilian government ruled that the Zika epidemic does not pose a risk to the vast majority of tourists visiting the country for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, beginning on August 5.

The country’s authorities said there was no risk to athletes and spectators. However, pregnant women should avoid travel at all costs.

Defense Minister, Jaques Wagner, said that “there is no risk of coming here, except for pregnant women,” in a press conference after a meeting headed by President Dilma Rousseff to coordinate response actions to the Zika epidemic. Rousseff recently approved plans involving mass fumigation across the country, aided by the armed forces.

Wagner considered it “reasonable” that pregnant women do not want to travel to Brazil, but no other tourists should hold back, adding that when the Olympics take place in August, “the degree of infestation will decrease” through government actions.

Public awareness

Brazil is currently facing a zika epidemic.

Wagner said that the Government is concerned about the impact of the disease on the Olympics, but added that information campaigns will be relayed in relation to the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared this Monday that zika is a worldwide health emergency.

President Rousseff recorded a message to be broadcast on national television to raise public awareness about the need to eliminate the breeding of the mosquito, Aedes aegypti, and to announce a series of measures that will need to be put in action to combat the disease.

The Rio 2016 organizers expressed concern on Tuesday at the outbreak of the virus, but are confident that it will decrease for the start of the competitions in August.

The zika outbreak in Brazil, “worries Rio-2016, the WHO, the whole world,” but “we are confident that we will win this battle and that it will not affect the Games,” said Mario Andrada, Communications Director from the organizing committee of the Olympic Games, at a press conference.

“We have worked with local authorities to increase inspections (…) and we have enough budget for it,” he added.

Director of Medical Services of the Rio-2016 committee, Joao Grangeiro, also trusts that the mosquito population and Zika infections will decrease in August, upon arrival of winter in the southern hemisphere.

“In August  the number of mosquitoes falls drastically, and the number of cases of zika will accompany this fall,” Grangeiro told reporters at the headquarters of the Olympic Games in Rio.

“We will follow the instructions of WHO as we are doing now,” he added.

Worse than previously thought…

Marcelo Castro, Brazil’s Minister of Health, has admitted that the outbreak of zika in the South American giant is worse than previously thought.

He explained in an interview with Reuters that the reason that the Government has not calibrated the scale of the problem is because in 80 percent of cases there are no symptoms. For this reason, many cases go unreported.

The outbreak of the Zika virus has infected more than 1.5 million Brazilians in recent months.

Although in most cases the symptoms are milder than those of dengue, zika has been linked to a sharp increase in cases of babies being born with microcephaly in infected pregnant women, a disease that causes babies to be born with smaller-sized heads.

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Brazil sees sharp rise in babies born with brain condition linked to Zika virus