The International Olympic Committee released a statement to all national Olympic committees on Friday advising all about the Zika virus – in the run-up to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. This memo informed about the latest status on this epidemic, and advised these committees to follow the lead of the World Health Organization, and their own country’s health organizations.
Over a million Brazilians have been diagnosed last year with this mosquito-borne disease that is now spreading to over 25 and counting countries in the Americas and the Caribbean. While the Zika virus symptoms are often mild or even go unnoticed, of most concern is the health of newborns who may contract the disease from their mothers who are infected during pregnancy. A causal, yet not scientific, link has been identified between this virus and microcephaly, a devastating medical condition causing the brain and skull to be underdeveloped. Many children will suffer from mental and physical handicaps, or may even contend with an early death.
The IOC’s travel instructions for Rio de Janeiro are based on recent communication with the WHO and medical staff in Brazil – which is ground zero for this epidemic. Therein, general precautions against mosquito bites were outlined, as well as stronger directives to females who are now pregnant or have childbirth plans.
“The IOC remains in close contact with the WHO to ensure that we have access to the most up-to-date information and guidance, from now through to Games time,” the IOC statement said. “At the same time NOCs should consult with their national health authorities to get advice and guidance.”
These committees are already taking measures to, in turn, guide athletes, coaches, officials, and staff. The United States Olympic Committee published a statement via email on Thursday, “We are closely monitoring the situation through the CDC and have ongoing contact with the International Olympic Committee, the organizing officials in Rio, the World Health Organization and infectious disease specialists with expertise in tropical diseases, including the Zika virus. Additionally, we’re taking steps to ensure that our delegation and those affiliated with Team USA are aware of the CDC’s recommendations regarding travel to Brazil.”
Other countries such as Australia and Germany are advising all, and especially women, about travel risks to the Rio Olympics and Paralympics this summer.
Subscribe below to all my current events and Olympic articles in the exciting and controversial run-up to Rio Olympics!