International Olympic Committee ‘closely monitoring’ Zika virus situation

  • The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it is “closely monitoring” the situation surrounding the Zika virus in Brazil ahead of this summer’s Games.

    Since the first reported case in Brazil in May 2015, the mosquito-borne Zika virus has infected an estimated 1.5 million people in the country.

    It is not considered dangerous to anyone apart from pregnant women.

    Around 80% have experienced no symptoms and the rest experiencing symptoms for just two to seven days.

    Symptoms are similar to dengue which includes fever, a rash, muscle and join pain, conjunctivitis and fatigue around three to 12 days after being bitten.

    There has been an increase in the number of babies born with microcephaly — underdeveloped brains — in Brazil and authorities are trying to determine if there is a connection.

    There is increasing evidence to suggest that the Zika virus can be passed from mother to her foetus during pregnancy causing microcephaly.

    There were 147 cases of microcephaly in Brazil in 2014 and more than 4,000 in 2015 and to date.

    The virus is spreading through the Americas. Earlier this week (4 February) the first European case was found, in a pregnant woman in Spain, who health ministers believe was infected in Columbia.

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared it a global public health emergency.

    The Olympics is due to start in the country in August.

    “We are in close communication with the WHO and the Rio 2016 organising committee on this topic,” read a statement from the IOC’s medical and scientific commission.

    “Rio 2016 is in regular contact with the Brazilian Ministry of Health and the Municipal Health Department, which are the responsible authorities on health issues in Brazil and in Rio. All parties are taking action to address this topic, and are following developments closely.”

    The statement also confirms that there is a Games-time plan in place to minimise the impact of the virus and offers current international advice for people visiting areas with Zika.

    This includes the use of mosquito bite avoidance measures, advice from local health authorities, additional precautions for pregnant women or individuals planning to become pregnant.

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