Could Zika Move the Olympic Games?

With just over two months to go, Rio de Janeiro is putting the final touches in place for the 2016 summer Olympic games. Seemingly, everything has gone fine: construction is basically complete, unlike concerns at previous games, and arrangements have all been finalised. There is just one thing that no one considered in the build up to the games: Zika Virus.

James Gathany

Brazil has been hard-hit by the virus. The 91,000 likely cases of infection between February and April alone has prompted over 180 leading scientists to sign an open letter addressed to the WHO (World Health Organisation) claiming that new discoveries surrounding Zika made it “unethical” for the Olympic games to go ahead.

The WHO soon rejected the letters claims and reaffirmed its official stance that Zika does not pose a big enough threat to move the summer games. The organisation claimed that Zika is already circulating in almost 60 countries, so moving the games would do very little. Scientists were quick to refute the claim however, pointing out that not many countries at all have seen the strain of Zika which causes birth defects in children such as microcephaly.

We know that mosquito’s bites are how the virus is primarily spread; unfortunately, conditions in Brazil only make this easier. Brazil has a history of unsanitary and polluted water which gives prime locations for mosquitos to lay their eggs and raise their young. While this is bad enough on its own, scientists have been quick to point out that pools of stagnant water caused by the building site of the summer games have led to a surprising boom in the local mosquito population.

While all eyes seem to be on mosquito transmitted Zika virus, there may be another problem that, for the most part, has gone completely unaddressed. Research is still in early stages and the fine details have not been identified yet, but findings have shown us that Zika can in factbe sexually transmitted. While research into female transmission hasn’t been carried out to any great extent, we do know that Zika can be transmitted from a male to his partner via vaginal, anal and oral sex.

It would appear that the virus can be transmitted not only while a male is experiencing symptoms, but also after and before these symptoms appear. The Zika virus can stay in semen longer than blood, although we aren’t sure for how long. This leaves patients at risk of believing they had a common cold and passing the virus sexually after symptoms have cleared up. Condoms can help, but as we know, they’re not always 100% effective and many people avoid using contraception during oral sex.

So, why may sexually transmitted Zika be a bigger risk than mosquito transmitted Zika? Put over 10,000 into a small area, and pheromones will start flying left, right and centre While it might sound like a joke, reports from the 2012 London Olympics claim that it’s very common place for athletes to sleep together during the games where each athlete was given 15 condoms upon their arrival. Casual sex among athletes was so prominent during the London games that GPS-based homosexual hook-up app ‘Grindr’ simply couldn’t cope with the sheer number of homosexual and bisexual men in such a small area and crashed repeatedly.

There’s a whole lot we still don’t know about the Zika virus. Combine this with athletes and audiences from all over the world attending, this may very well lead trouble post-games. For now, however, it seems the Rio Olympics have been given the green-light - only time will tell…

#Health #JoeyRelton #Zika #Weekofzika

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