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06/06/2016 | Zika and the Olympics - Should I stay or should I go?

The Economist Staff

A call to stop or move the Olympics because of Zika is mistaken

 

AS THE Olympic torch relay nears Rio de Janeiro in the countdown to the games supposed to start there on August 5th, a proposal to postpone or move the event has ignited controversy. An open letter posted online on May 27th and now signed by more than 200 academics and health experts, mostly bioethicists, argues that holding the games as planned is “unethical” because it will speed up the spread of the Zika virus. The reasons the experts put forward, however, do not warrant such drastic action.

Most Zika infections pass with no symptoms. Though the virus can cause a neurological condition that may lead to temporary paralysis or death, this is rare. Zika is at its most dangerous during pregnancy, because it can cause severe brain damage to the unborn baby. Pregnant women are therefore advised to avoid travel to areas where Zika is being transmitted, including Rio de Janeiro.

That is not the letter-writers’ concern, though. They worry that many of the 500,000 foreigners expected to flock to Rio for the games will get infected, and then spread Zika back home. But, though 500,000 is a huge number, it is less than 0.25% of all those who travel each year to places already affected by Zika, according to America’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The World Health Organisation (WHO) agrees. Cancelling or moving the Olympics will not significantly alter the spread of Zika, it said on May 28th. The virus is now present in nearly 60 countries and territories, and people will continue to travel to and from these, games or no games. Although it is impossible to predict how many of those visiting Rio for the Olympics will be infected, Mike Turner, director of infectious diseases at the Wellcome Trust, a British health charity, reckons the risk is “close to zero” for those who take the recommended precautions.

Such precautions are simple. Visitors are most likely to catch Zika through the bite of Aedes aegypti, a mosquito that transmits the virus. Wearing trousers and long-sleeved shirts reduces the target area mosquitoes can attack and wearing repellent drives them away. Sexual transmission of Zika, which is known to occur for up to two months after infection, is much rarer and condoms can prevent it.

Most fans and athletes will probably be diligent about slathering on repellent, and may even compromise their sartorial elegance to avoid the mosquitoes’ attentions. Less certain is whether A. aegypti will be a rare sight at Olympic venues, as promised. It is a tricky creature to get rid of (the CDC’s director, Tom Frieden, calls it “the cockroach of mosquitoes”). Rio’s authorities have stepped up insecticide-spraying campaigns and the mopping-up of spots of stagnant water in which the insect can breed. The state’s allotment of federal money for this task is 45% more than the amount it got in 2015. But El Niño has brought a summer much warmer and rainier than usual—so mosquitoes in Rio de Janeiro have been more plentiful.

So far this year, the number of cases there of dengue, another disease transmitted by A. aegypti, have been nearly twice those in the same period last year. Dengue rates, though, swing wildly from year to year depending on how rainy it is, so that does not necessarily mean mosquito control is ineffective. And, as Wanderson Oliveira of the federal health ministry’s unit for monitoring and emergency response points out, mosquitoes will be much less of a problem when the games start because August is a dry month when the insects’ numbers fall “vertiginously”.

The authors of the open letter doubt the WHO’s impartiality to make the right call about Rio, suspecting it of secretly being in cahoots with the Olympics’ organisers and citing a now-expired agreement between the two to improve healthy lifestyles by way of evidence. That smacks of paranoia.

A more sensible reason for jittery nerves is Brazil’s shaky relationship with the truth when it comes to promulgating official information. Tourists and athletes might be more assured that Zika is under control if data relating to it were monitored by foreign experts working alongside local authorities, much as voting in many countries with rickety electoral systems is observed by outsiders. At first, Mr Oliveira is a little indignant at the suggestion (“This didn’t happen in London [in 2012],” he says) but then he admits the idea could be considered. “Any expert is welcome to get in touch with us,” he says. Please form an orderly queue.

The Economist (Reino Unido)

 



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19/08/2009|
19/08/2009|
15/08/2009|
15/08/2009|
15/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
19/07/2009|
19/07/2009|
18/07/2009|
18/07/2009|
27/03/2009|
22/03/2009|
22/03/2009|
27/01/2009|
27/01/2009|
27/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
11/01/2009|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
23/11/2008|
23/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
22/08/2008|
22/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
24/05/2008|
24/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
29/04/2008|
11/02/2008|
05/01/2008|
09/12/2007|
18/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/09/2007|
26/08/2007|
25/08/2007|
11/07/2007|
16/06/2007|
16/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
24/04/2007|
24/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
28/02/2007|
28/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
17/11/2006|
30/09/2006|
28/07/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
06/03/2006|
21/02/2006|
17/02/2006|
31/01/2006|
10/01/2006|
28/12/2005|
31/10/2005|
26/09/2005|
29/08/2005|
11/08/2005|
08/08/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|

ver + notas
 
Center for the Study of the Presidency
Freedom House