We are less than two months away from the beginning of the greatest sports event in the planet. Brazil is expected to welcome representatives from around 200 countries and 500,000 international tourists. The country’s healthcare system is duly prepared for this big moment, with preventive actions in place against the Aedes aegypti mosquito, with monitors 24/7 in the six cities hosting the games and trained professionals who are qualified to attend to emergencies.
The circulation of the Zika virus, spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, will not hinder us from having a safe and unforgettable event for athletes, participants and spectators. The risks are minimal. A study published by the University of Cambridge makes a forecast of less than one case of infection among the 500,000 tourists.
WHO specialists corroborated on June 14 that the risk of propagation of the disease is very low. During the Games, trips to Rio will represent 0.25 percent of all travel to Zika-affected areas, according to United States’s CDC. Overall, the virus is already circulating in 60 countries and Brazil represents just 15 percent of the exposed population.
During the Games, Brazil will be in winter time, which is diseases spread by the Aedes aegypti are at their lower rate. In addition to that, actions to fight the mosquito like home visits and public investment in monitoring and prevention, have brought about an early fall of Zika rates – infection cases declined 87 percent between February and May of the current year.
The monitoring and follow-up of these data are still in progress by means of a partnership with the WHO, in an absolutely transparent manner. The proper measures to fight the Aedes aegypti are still in effect, with the backup of 3,000 health agents in Rio.
During the preparation phase, 51 test events were performed, monitored by the Ministry of Health, and no case of infection resulted from them. Since May 3, the Olympic torch has passed through more than 100 cities and not a single case has been reported either.
Brazil has experience in organizing big events, such as the World Cup. There was also some fuss and preoccupation back then regarding a possible epidemic of dengue fever, but only three cases were reported in tourists.
Protecting the health of Brazilians and tourists coming to this world event is a priority to the federal government, which has pledged to put into effect appropriate measures to protect peoples’ health. I was recently in Geneva, Switzerland, and reaffirmed to the International Olympic Committee that we would never risk the health of athletes and tourists. Brazil is keeping all necessary care and measures so that the games are a historical milestone in sports. Therefore, come to the Olympic Games!
* Ricardo Barros is the health minister of Brazil.