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Experts study risks of Zika virus spreading due to Rio Olympics

Daniele Ferreira holds her son Juan Pedro during a session to stimulate the development of his eyesight at the Altino Ventura rehabilitation centre in Recife, Brazil. The baby was born with microcephaly, a neurological disorder that damaged his brain and also affected his vision, a condition associated with an outbreak of Zika virus in Brazil. Photo: Reuters

Daniele Ferreira holds her son Juan Pedro during a session to stimulate the development of his eyesight at the Altino Ventura rehabilitation centre in Recife, Brazil. The baby was born with microcephaly, a neurological disorder that damaged his brain and also affected his vision, a condition associated with an outbreak of Zika virus in Brazil. Photo: Reuters  

With about 5,00,000 people expected to visit Brazil for the Olympics here this year, researchers are scrambling to figure how much of a risk the Games might pose in spreading the Zika virus around the world.

Infectious disease specialists are particularly focused on the potential for Zika to spread to the United States. As many as 2,00,000 Americans are expected to travel to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics in August. When they return to the Northern Hemisphere and its summer heat, far more mosquitoes will be around to potentially transmit the virus in the U.S.

Brazilian researchers say they believe that Zika, which has been linked to severe birth defects, came to their country during another major sports event — the 2014 World Cup — when hundreds of thousands of visitors flowed into Brazil. Virus trackers here say that the strain raging in Brazil probably came from Polynesia, where an outbreak was rattling small islands around the Pacific.

As many as 1.5 million people are believed to have contracted the virus in Brazil since then, and the authorities are now investigating thousands of reported cases of babies being born recently with brain damage and abnormally small heads. Zika has spread to more than 20 nations and territories in the Western Hemisphere, according to the World Health Organization, illustrating how quickly the epidemic can expand even without a big international gathering. — New York Times News Service

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 1:09:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/Experts-study-risks-of-Zika-virus-spreading-due-to-Rio-Olympics/article14027166.ece

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