Pakistan News

Brazil downplays fears over Zika virus ahead of Olympics

Brazil downplays fears over Zika virus ahead of Olympics

ISLAMABAD: Amid growing concerns over spread of the Zika virus, sports boards and athletes alike are contemplating whether it will be wise to participate in the Olympic games in Brazil scheduled for later this year.

Meanwhile, Brazilian embassies are trying to raise awareness about the virus and reassure people that their government has enhanced efforts to curb the vector mosquitoes ahead of the games. Around 220,000 armed forces personnel have joined the 300,000 public agents and volunteers to combat the mosquitoes by eradicating their breeding grounds.

With an estimated three million cases during the last one year alone, the Zika virus, a vector-borne disease, is fast spreading in the Americas.

Almost 80 per cent of those infected don’t develop any symptoms or develop only minor symptoms such as rashes, fever or joint pain. But the virus is reportedly dangerous for pregnant women and their offspring as the child may be born with abnormalities such as a small head.

Pakistani players and athletes going to Brazil in the summer for the games can become carriers of the virus.

An official of the Ministry of National Health Services said the ministry has started making arrangements as the disease has been recognised as a public health emergency of international concern.

“We have been making arrangements to educate Pakistani players (about the virus) as around 40 to 50 players participate in the Olympics each time,” said the official.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), since last year, in addition to Brazil, 24 other countries and territories of the Americas, including the United States, have been affected by the Zika virus.

“At the end of 2015, for the first time, the Brazilian authorities proved a possible link between the contamination of women by the Zika virus during pregnancy and the birth of babies with microcephaly — a serious congenital condition in which the brain does not develop properly,” it says.

The Brazilian government has commissioned a task force whose aim is to prevent the mosquito from transmitting the disease, according to a statement by its embassy.

Apart from these more traditional strategies and efforts to strengthen its healthcare network, Brazil is investing in technology and research to develop a vaccine and new therapies.

For the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Brazilian government has already adopted precautionary measures. All construction areas of the Olympic venues are scrutinised regularly by environmental health officers to prevent any mosquito breeding sites. Any remaining reservoirs of the construction work will be removed and those that cannot be removed will be treated in order to avoid any appearance of mosquito breeding sites.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2016

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