The Hong Kong Department of Health (DH) today arranged a briefing for the sports sector on the necessary preventive measures against Zika Virus Infection before departing for upcoming preparatory events of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. About 50 athletes and their personnel, including coaches, medical and nursing staff, and representatives, attended.
Aedes mosquito
Aedes aegypti image/CDC

Officers of the DH updated attendees on the latest epidemiology of Zika virus and highlighted the evolving situation in Brazil with reported ongoing local transmission according to the World Health Organization. Their attention was drawn to transmission by mosquito bite as well as potential transmission by blood transfusion and sexual contact. Major clinical concerns on the possible association between Zika virus and adverse pregnancy outcomes (microcephaly) and neurological disorders, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), have been explained.

Members of the sports sector should adopt standard travel health advice and precautions before, during and after the trip. They should consult a doctor at least six weeks in advance and take extra anti-mosquito precautions. All people going to Brazil should strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip. Upon arrival in Hong Kong, they should use insect repellent for 14 days, and seek medical advice if symptoms develop.
Pregnant women and those planning pregnancy should consider deferring the trip. Those who must travel to Brazil should adopt appropriate contraception, and consult and reveal their travel history to their doctor if symptoms develop after the trip. Those preparing for pregnancy should continue to adopt contraception for 28 days after returning from affected areas. A pregnant woman should not have sex with her male partner who had travelled to affected areas, or else condoms should be used. Any male traveller should also follow the special advice for prevention of sexual transmission regarding potential adverse pregnancy outcomes, i.e. use of condoms.
“With potentially more outdoor exposure in events, athletes should pay special attention to using DEET-containing insect repellents on exposed parts of the body and clothing according to instructions on the product label. There are different preparations of repellents in the market. Read the product label carefully and, in particular, note the active ingredient and its concentration, the duration of effectiveness and instructions on re-application,” a spokesman for the DH said.
“If sunscreen and DEET-containing insect repellent are used at the same time, apply sunscreen first, followed by insect repellent on top. In a hot or humid climate or after sweating, they may need to repeat application of repellents,” the spokesman added.
In addition, the DH reminded athletes and personnel to stay alert to other endemic diseases in Brazil, such as dengue fever, malaria and yellow fever, which are all mosquito-borne. Anti-mosquito precautions and similar travel health advice are also useful in guarding against these diseases.