Brazil Summer Olympic authorities are downplaying fears that the Zika virus will disrupt this summer’s Games, scheduled to kick off in Rio de Janeiro in just six months’ time.
The Olympics are a huge event for bookmakers, who handled some £80 million ($116.8 million) in bets in the UK alone during the 2012 London Summer Olympics, and the event’s cancelation would be a major calamity for sports books, albeit one that would be offset this year by the betting extravaganza that is soccer’s European Championships.
On Monday, the World Health Organization declared the mosquito-borne Zika virus to be a “global public health emergency.” Zika is the suspected-but-not-proven cause of thousands of recent cases of microcephaly in Brazilian babies, a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and brains. It can spread to the fetus easily for pregnant women, who have been advised not to travel to that country at this time.
It’s believed that since the virus was first identified last April, 1.5 million people may have been infected with the disease.
Bring Mosquito Spray
Fears are that the Brazil Summer Olympics may hasten the spread of Zika across the world, as people from all over the globe descend on the games and risk catching the infection from a simple bite.
On Tuesday, an Olympics committee held a press conference in an attempt to allay anxieties. The fact that the games will be held in August, which is winter in Brazil, means that there will be far fewer mosquitos around due to a less humid climate, Olympic representatives told the press.
Authorities will also ensure that all areas near the Olympic sites will be constantly monitored and searched for stagnant water, they assured the media. Athletes, however, should cover themselves in mosquito repellant, just to make sure, the committee conceded, an add-on that may not have inspired quite the confidence level that Brazil was seeking.
Pregnant Women: Stay at Home
“At the moment we have a new problem and are facing this with the help of the government and the authorities” said spokesman Mário Andrada. “Our priority is the health of the athletes, the health of all Brazilians and protection for all those who work at the Olympics. We are sure this battle can be won and will not affect the Games.”
For non-pregnant adults, Zika merely causes a mild illness, with a rash and some achy limbs. That could still affect the potential for a medal for athletes who have often trained all their lives for this moment, but Brazilian organizers insist the situation will be under control by the games’ kickoff.