While there were plenty a health warnings concerning the risks of infectious diseases for travelers  going to the 2014 FIFA World Cup last summer  in Brazil due to the risk of contracting dengue fever while in the country and introducing measles to the country (HERE and HERE), I imagine few suspected the risk of another mosquito borne virus landing in the South American country.

Aedes aegypti/CDC
Aedes aegypti/CDC

According to a report in the Brazilian news source, Folha de São Paulo (computer translated),  researchers believe the Zika virus may have been introduced to the region from travelers from endemic areas of Asia or the Pacific Islands during a major sporting event in Brazil in 2014.

It has been determined that the virus strain isolated earlier in 2015 in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte is of Asian lineage. A couple of studies look at two major international sporting events in which the virus may have entered.

One scientific article by researchers from French Polynesia suggests that Zika arrived in Rio de Janeiro with participants of the Va’a World Sprint Canoeing World Championships, held in August 2014.

The competition, held in Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, involved athletes from four areas of the Pacific: French Polynesia, New Caledonia, the Cook Islands and Easter Island, which belongs to Chile.

Then there is another study by the Institute of Tropical Medicine of São Paulo which points to the possibility of Zika arriving here with the flow of tourists for the World Cup. During the World Cup, 129 persons entered Bahia coming from Asian locales where there was virus circulation in the continent.

Where it came from is still under investigation; however, predictions of the number of cases that will be seen in the country by year’s end are startling. An O Globo report (computer translated) states:  “Projections indicate that in the worst case scenario, we will end the year with almost 1.5 million people infected with Zika in Brazil. At best, it will be 500,000 cases. Neither prospect is good,” said Celso Ramos Filho, infectious disease specialist at the University Hospital Clementino Fraga Filho and event speaker in the Globo House of Knowledge, in Lagoa.

Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today and the Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch

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