Please select your home edition
Edition
RS Sailing 2020 - Summer Offer - LEADERBOARD

If Zika more damaging then Ebola, should Rio 2016 become London 2016?

by Rob Kothe & David Schmidt on 1 Feb 2016
The Christ Redeemer statue, left, overlooks Guanabara bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Rio 2016 Olympics SW
Right now, it’s 185 days to Rio 2016 and Brazil is reeling under the affects of the Zika virus.

Brazil and other South American countries are experiencing a widespread outbreak of the Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquito bites (and possibly through bodily fluids, but this has yet to be proven), and from pregnant mothers to their unborn children.


According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), Zika is typically spread by the “Aedes” species of mosquito, which is also the vector for the dengue fever and chikungunya viruses.

Of great concern is that apparently only one in five people who contract the Zika virus experience any effects, which can run the gamut from mild symptoms to fevers, rashes, joint pain, or conjunctivitis.

But that hardly matters, its another side affect entirely that is the real danger.

Health officials strongly believe that there is a correlation between the virus and a surge in the number of babies born with microcephaly - a birth defect where children are born with significantly smaller heads and brains than healthy infants. This in turn leads to a raft of other problems for the baby, including early deaths and very significant mental disabilities, seizures, and developmental issues.

World-wide this virus could cause millions of babies to be born with a life damaging disability, perhaps this could a much bigger threat to global health than the Ebola epidemic that killed more than 11,000 people in Africa.

That is the stark claim of several senior health experts ahead of an emergency meeting of the World Health Organisation today Monday in Geneva which will decide whether the Zika threat – which is linked to an alarming rise in cases of foetal deformation called microcephaly – should be rated a global health crisis. If this happens this could have a very major consequences for the Rio Olympic games.

“In many ways the Zika outbreak is worse than the Ebola epidemic of 2014-15,” said Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome Trust. “Most virus carriers are symptomless. It is a silent infection in a group of highly vulnerable individuals – pregnant women – that is associated with a horrible outcome for their babies.¨'

As a result of the Zika outbreak and the possible connection to microcephaly, several Central and South American countries - including Ecuador, El Salvador, Jamaica and Colombia - have asked women to avoid becoming pregnant for the next two years. Repeat TWO years.

Already some airlines - including United - are offering some ticketed passengers (e.g., pregnant women, or women who plan to become pregnant, which of course could be any woman of child bearing age including just about every Olympic female athlete) headed to the affected regions an option to delay their trip or to get a refund.

Whilst there is a strong chance that the Zika virus will spread to other areas of the world where the Aedes mosquito is found (read: all of North and South America, with the exception of Canada, as well as wide swaths of the rest of the planet including much of Southern Europe, Africa and Asia), there is an equally strong chance that travellers and athletes who are attending the Games could inadvertently accelerate this spread by bringing the Zika virus back home to their family, friends and communities.

Then there’s the question of how long one can remain infected and therefore serve as a vector for the virus. This last point is especially worrisome for women of childbearing age, as women can transmit the Zika virus to their unborn babies. Worse still, depending on the duration that a human can serve as a Zika vector, it could take years to know the full extent of the microcephaly risk.


Given the fact that medical authorities are already suggesting the need for a two-year pregnancy deferment, medical authorities asked when would they know if future pregnancies could produce babies with micro-encephaphy or other devastating birth defects say in five years’ time, answered we won't know for five years.

With The Australian Olympic Committee now advising female athletes to consider the health implications, some Australian female athletes already selected for Rio have said they will delay their decision on whether to compete or not until July, because of the fast moving situation.

The standing water in the slums of Rio and the waterways leading into Guanabara Bay are perfect breeding grounds for the transmission via the bite of mosquitoes from the Aedes genus, primarily Aedes aegypti, but others found including the Asian tiger mosquito now also common in Italy, France and Spain.

Given the fact that Brazil's promises on pollution control have not translated into action, it would be a brave of sporting administrators to assume that the mosquito would be controlled by August 2016.


For Rio 2016 the only good news from this potential disaster is that the possibility of getting a gastro intestinal tract infection from the faecal pollution in Guanabara Bay hardly matters when one is weighing the risks of brings a massively damaged child into the world, as a result of Rio 2016 participation.

Then comes the real questions, should the Games actually be held in Rio or should there be an emergency relocation?

RS Sailing 2020 - Summer Offer - FOOTERX-Yachts AUS X4 - FOOTER - 1Cyclops Marine 2020 - FOOTER

Related Articles

Ensign Update: Featured Motor & Sailing Yachts
Top picks and luxurious new boats ready and waiting for your next adventure Welcome to Ensign Yachts update with our latest top picks and luxurious new boats which are ready and waiting for your next adventure.
Posted today at 6:56 am
One year to the start of the 2021 Transpac
The 51st edition of one of the world's oldest and longest classic ocean races One year from now on July 13, 2021 the first of three waves of starters will set off on the 51st edition of one of the world's oldest and longest classic ocean races, the 2225-mile Transpac.
Posted today at 6:35 am
Relive AC34 in San Francisco! Race 19 full replay
The winner-take-all final race from 2013 ORACLE TEAM USA win the 34th America's Cup in a winner-take-all 19th race, defeating challenger Emirates Team New Zealand by 44 seconds in the clincher.
Posted today at 6:07 am
America's Cup: Emirates Team NZ's Te Aihe training
Emirates Team NZ made the most of a two day weather window to get a couple of good dayss Emirates Team New Zealand made the most of a two day weather window to get a couple of good training sessions on the Waitemata Harbour on Sunday and Monday.
Posted today at 5:32 am
David Sussmann on the 2020 Pure Ocean Challenge
An interview with David Sussmann on the Route Saint-Pierre Lorient Pure Ocean Challenge I checked in with David Sussmann, founder of Pure Ocean, via email, to learn more about the Route Saint-Pierre Lorient Pure Ocean Challenge
Posted on 13 Jul
Upgrade your experience with the M-Race Jacket
The most breathable, technical jacket Henri-Lloyd have ever made Back when I took part in the Henri-Lloyd Frostbite Challenge in Sweden, as a crew we wore the M-Pro Smock and Salopette combination. We had two days of sunshine, but December in Marstrand is cold... really cold!
Posted on 13 Jul
Tokyo2020: Second opinion proves vital
Olympic silver medalist now back on track for Tokyo, after getting second opinion on break injury A broken foot threatened to derail sailor Alex Maloney's second Olympic campaign. But she's back on track, with a little help from her brother and his America's Cup team-mates.
Posted on 13 Jul
Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d'Olonne Race update
Dalin is first at the Gallimard Waypoint as the last lap begins Charlie Dalin at the helm of the white and yellow foiler, Apivia, was the first skipper to reach the Gallimard Waypoint this morning as he turned his bow eastwards for the final stretch of the Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d'Olonne Race.
Posted on 13 Jul
America's Cup: Spectacular Images of Te Aihe
Te Aihe made a spectacular sight in the late afternoon sun. Sailing in a fresh offshore breeze Te Aihe made a spectacular sight in the late afternoon sun.
Posted on 13 Jul
In this together
We have just been reminded of what this nastiest of minute pests with no brain at all can achieve... Australia has been fortunate to have recorded a much lower fatality rate than many other jurisdictions in this most saddening of times.
Posted on 12 Jul