To stop the spread of Zika, Olympic athletes and attendees are being advised to not have sex
If you’ve been looking forward to watching the summer Olympics, maybe curb your enthusiasm. This year’s games, set to take place in Rio de Janeiro from August 5 to 21, are marred by a rather grim fact: Brazil is the world’s most Zika virus-affected country, and Rio de Janeiro is its most affected state.
In the Harvard Public Health Review, Dr. Amir Attaran wrote an extremely clear article explaining all of the reasons the games should be moved or outright cancelled in light of the epidemic. “If it were a case of holding the Olympics in Cancún, which has just a tiny little bit of Zika, I wouldn't feel this way, but we are talking the most affected state and the most affected country,” Attaran tells me. There are a few reasons why Brazil’s outbreak is more extensive than that of other countries. “Part of it is that Brazil just being the biggest country, the regional superpower, but it's also climatic conditions. You know, Brazil is very much on the equator and it has appalling sanitation, which is I guess part of the problem, right?” Attaran explains. “And it's not just the poorer outlying cities that have it.”
The virus is spread through mosquitos, causing a rash, fever, joint pain, and red eyes. In more severe cases, it can cause Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The greatest risk is for pregnant women, though, whose babies can suffer microcephaly and brain damage. Brazil has experienced an incredible increase in mosquito-borne disease, Attaran says: According the their government statistics, the rate is up 600 percent over last year.
It seems pretty risky, then, to send half a million extra people into the most afflicted area, only so that they can go home and further spread the virus, which is also passed through unprotected sex. This is why Attaran is speaking out, and calling on the International Olympics Committee and World Health Organization to either cancel or move the games. These organizations have partnered up, though, and are insisting that the risk is negligible—all those attending need to do is take regular precautions against mosquitoes and abstain from sex. “It's that the WHO has got into bed with one of the most money-fueled and notoriously corrupt organizations, the IOC, and consequently they're not being honest about the global health danger and they're putting the world's at health risk knowingly, because they don't want to disturb that handshake,” says Attaran of the statement.
There is also the issue of the sponsors, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Toyota, and Visa among them. These corporations are continuing their association with the games, which is why Attaran is going to personally boycott them. “These could end up being the Olympics of brain-damaged children,” he says. “Why do these companies wish to remain associated?”
“My point was if you send a half-million people into the very heart of the most affected city of the most affected country, you are all but certain that some will become infected and return home and spread this epidemic—that's guaranteed,” Attaran notes, emphatically. “Scientists can quibble over how much it will make it worse, but none can claim that it will make things better.”