In a follow-up to a report on this site concerning the upcoming Summer Olympic and Paralympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, WHO and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) recognize that athletes and visitors are seeking more information on the risks of Zika and ways to prevent infection while attending the Olympic and Paralympic Games Rio 2016 (5 August to 18 September 2016).
Brazil is one of the 58 countries and territories which to-date report continuing transmission of Zika virus by mosquitoes. While mosquitoes are the primary vectors, a person infected with Zika virus can also transmit the virus to another person through unprotected sex. Zika virus disease usually causes mild symptoms (fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache), and most people will not develop any symptoms.
However, there is scientific consensus that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly (children being born with unusually small heads) and other brain malformations and disorders in babies born to women who were infected with Zika virus during pregnancy, and Guillain-Barré syndrome (a rare but serious neurological disorder that could lead to paralysis and death).
Athletes and visitors to Rio de Janeiro, and other areas where Zika virus is circulating, are being encouraged to:
- follow the travel advice provided by WHO and their countries’ health authorities, and consult a health worker before travelling;
- whenever possible, during the day, protect themselves from mosquito bites by using insect repellents and by wearing clothing – preferably light-coloured – that covers as much of the body as possible;
- practice safer sex (e.g. use condoms correctly and consistently) or abstain from sex during their stay and for at least 4 weeks after their return, particularly if they have had or are experiencing symptoms of Zika virus;
- choose air-conditioned accommodation (windows and doors are usually kept closed to prevent the cool air from escaping, and mosquitoes cannot enter the rooms);
- avoid visiting impoverished and over-crowded areas in cities and towns with no piped water and poor sanitation (ideal breeding grounds of mosquitoes) where the risk of being bitten is higher.
Pregnant women continue to be advised not to travel to areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission. This includes Rio de Janeiro. Pregnant women’s sex partners returning from areas with circulating virus continue to be counselled to practice safer sex or abstain throughout the pregnancy. The Games will take place during Brazil’s wintertime, when there are fewer active mosquitoes and the risk of being bitten is lower.
- Zika history: A timeline to a public health crisis
- Zika in the US: ‘Threat of local outbreak likely’, according to Fauci
- Zika virus: Rapid mutations allowed virus to spread swiftly around the globe suggests UCLA researchers
- Zika virus: Male-to-male sexual transmission documented
- CDC concludes: Zika causes microcephaly