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Let's talk about Zika at Rio Olympics

By Admin

Added 18th May 2016 01:25 PM

The glamour of the games is now building up quite well. Athletes are looking forward to yet another occasion of the Olympic and Paralympic games. With the eagerness of an eagle-waiting to pounce on its prey, participants and watchers aspire to be among the activities.

 Let's talk about Zika at Rio Olympics

Simon J. Mone is a civil engineer

The glamour of the games is now building up quite well. Athletes are looking forward to yet another occasion of the Olympic and Paralympic games. With the eagerness of an eagle-waiting to pounce on its prey, participants and watchers aspire to be among the activities.

By Simon J. Mone

Seventy Nine days are still left before the Olympics and Paralympics showdown in Rio de Janeiro. And pre-Olympic preparations and talks are starting to take shape.

The glamour of the games is now building up quite well. Athletes are looking forward to yet another occasion of the Olympic and Paralympic games. With the eagerness of an eagle-waiting to pounce on its prey, participants and watchers aspire to be among the activities.

Either on television or live from Brazils' capital itself, everybody is looking forward to being part of events. But this time, the Atlantic side of the globe is battling a big disease emergency, Zika. And Brazil is among the 58 countries whose researchers are working around the clock to contain Zika virus transmission.

The country's scientists are looking downwards - glued to their microscopes to try and find very quick solutions to this latest problem. To all athletes and visitors travelling to Rio de Janeiro, this is the size of challenge that you expect to come against.

And be able to overcome it in order to return home without that mosquito bite. Because Zika is commonly known to be transmitted when a mosquito vector, bites an infected person and then another. Other transmission modes also exist, which also require some discipline. Just like Brazilians scientists will testify.

Some studies are already pointing to the fact that Brazil's Zika virus is identical to one from French Polynesia. And suspicion is ripe that the August 2014 World Sprint Championship canoe race, held in Rio de Janeiro, brought the thing. That it attracted participants from four Pacific Island nations including French Polynesia, who are also busy trying to contain Zika. We take some learning from this.

So yet again, the forthcoming Olympics and Paralympics offer a stern test for authorities in Brazil. And for which participating athletes should be ready to face. Now, thoughts of going to take part in the Olympic Games are daunting. Potentially, there is very high likelihood that athletes will import the dreaded illness back home. Can they stay away from the games?

An individual call really. Imagine how hard it is to avoid a mosquito bite. With the Olympics, Zika could spread to the world causing far-reaching problems. Some countries with limited capacity sometimes confirm cases after it has already spread to a wider area and makes controlling very difficult. Just like we saw in Brazil, once there was infection, in a matter of months, it had spread quickly throughout the country. We see that some factors are playing actively in its spread.

First, there is this no immunity for populations and that makes it even difficult to prevent transmission of bites from Aedes mosquitoes. Second, the mosquito vector thrives in a tropical climate. It is said to flourish in litter, open ditches, clogged drains, and containers for water storage, and things of the like.

These are characteristics of most city outskirts where many athletes are going to end up residing at during the Olympics. Most urban areas with high population growth and with evidently limited or no capacity to construct essential infrastructure, like proper water, wastewater and sanitation systems will be vulnerable to Zika. So when a population of the size that will converge at Brazil's capital come together for the duration of the games, expect anything near a crisis, including the disease transmission to continue.

It will be far-worrying than it currently is. Zika will be imported back home. With no proper prevention mechanism by many countries, especially countries where malaria alone is still a major headache, Zika might be the world's biggest headache. It could be a Zika Olympics.

The writer is a civil engineer

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