The 2016 Rio Olympics will take off by August, but both the Olympics organizers and the Brazilian government are facing the herculean task of making the country safe and healthy for international athletes that will be visiting the country in the face of the Zika virus epidemic.
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About 16,000 athletes will be participating at the games and about 600,000 international visitors will be in Rio de Janiero to watch the Olympics, putting the burden of keeping them safe and healthy on both the government and the games organizers.
This raises a crucial Zika question on CNN: should the Rio Olympics be canceled or postponed? Several public experts have been reacting to this issue.
New York University bioethicist Art Caplan thinks Brazil is toying with people’s health, saying it is not right for the Amazonian nation to be “trying to run an Olympics and battle an epidemic at the same time.”
The US Olympic committee was quoted as telling fidgety athletes to stay away from the games if they desire to, and football professional Hope Solo disclosed she won’t ever go near Rio unless the Brazilian government assured the international community that it has subdued Zika.
Dr. Kamran Khan, an infectious disease physician and scientist based at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, said athletes could become infected with Zika and end up introducing the virus to their home countries, something that could be disastrous for the whole world since athletes from all countries of the world will be attending the events.
But Dr. Mary Wilson of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reminded as many as wants to listen that the Rio Olympics will be held only in one city and a time when the weather will be very cold, giving health officials in the country to bring the risks associated with Zika transmission to an acceptable level.
And Dr. Daniel Lucey of Georgetown's O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law said Brazil is well able to overcome Zika before August.
He is supported by Eskild Petersen, editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, who stated that "Controlling Zika at present is a problem of mosquito control and once the authorities get that working, the risk will be reduced."
Whatever side of the fence you are, health experts advise that athletes who return home from the Rio Olympic should avoid mosquito bites and unprotected sex for up to a month, regardless of whether they experience symptoms or not.
Travelers to the games are also advised to take effective medications that could prevent malaria infections with them, and it would be better if they take a yellow fever vaccination before heading out to Brazil. Travelers must be mindful that apart from Zika, dengue fever and chickungunya are already in Brazil and so must take appropriate preventive measures to protect themselves.