Zika not a threat to Olympics: Rio mayor

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Rio de Janeiro, Feb 13 (IANS) Rio’s mayor Eduardo Paes has insisted that the zika virus is not a threat to the 2016 Olympic Games, which will be held in the city in August.

In the re-inauguration of the Maria Lenk Water Park, which got a facelift for the Olympics, Mayor Paes commented on the zika virus situation, which has raised some controversy over the actual risk of holding the Games in Rio, reports Xinhua.

“We have to deal with the zika problem, but that is not an Olympic issue. It is an issue for us Brazilians and for Rio de Janeiro,” he said on Friday.

Zika is a disease transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also transmits dengue, which is endemic to Brazil. Even though zika has milder symptoms than dengue, it became a health issue worth the attention of the World Health Organisation (WHO) after it was discovered that pregnant women infected by the virus were giving birth to an increasing number of babies with microcephaly, a syndrome characterised by a smaller cranium diameter, often accompanied by other health problems and cognitive delays.

Mayor Paes highlighted that August is one of the dryest months of the year in Rio, and thus is not the right season for the reproduction of the Aedes mosquito – the mosquito lays its eggs on stagnant water, such as water accumulated after major storms and even water from plant vases. The mosquito reproduces more during summer, which is the wet season in the city.

“August and July are dry months, not as warm, so we have less incidence of the mosquito. We must take all the necessary precautions, show that we are doing whatever we can to prevent any athlete or visitor who come to Rio from catching the disease,” he said.

Paes criticized the uproar over the zika virus, saying that there is ‘some exaggeration’ about the risks.

“More people die of flu every year than of dengue, let alone of zika. I do not mean to minimize the issue, but I think there is being some exaggeration at the moment,” he said.

So far, over 4,000 reported cases of microcephaly in newborns were registered in Brazil. Out of those, over 400 have already been confirmed.

The International Olympic Committee recently commented on the possible impact of the zika virus on the Games. IOC medical director Richard Budgett said on Thursday in London that there are no plans to cancel the Olympic Games over the threat of the zika virus. According to him, the warnings against travelling to Brazil (and other countries affected by zika) at this moment are only applicable to pregnant women, for whom there is increased risk in case of infection.

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