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Brazil’s health minister assures Olympic guests of ‘minimal’ Zika risks

Brazil’s Health Minister Ricardo Barros attends a news conference on Zika virus for international media in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 10, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

BEIJING — Brazilian Health Minister Ricardo Barros has assured the world that Brazil’s healthcare system is all set for the Olympic Games, with “preventive actions in place” against the mosquito that causes the Zika virus.

“The country’s healthcare system is duly prepared for this big moment, with preventive actions in place against the Aedes aegypti, 24/7 monitoring in the six cities hosting the games and trained professionals who are qualified to attend to emergencies,” the minister said in a faxed statement to Xinhua on Thursday.

“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,” stressed Barros, who cited a study published by the University of Cambridge that 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,” said the minister.

“During the games, trips to Rio will represent 0.25% of all travel to Zika-affected areas, according to United States’ CDC. Overall, the virus is already circulating in 60 countries, and Brazil represents 15% of the exposed population.

“During the games, Brazil will be in winter time, which is when diseases spread by the Aedes aegypti hit their lower rate. In addition to that, the mobilization actions to fight the mosquito, like home visits and public investment in monitoring and prevention, have caused an early fall of Zika rates – infection cases dropped 87% between February and May of the current year.”

Barros acknowIedged that 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. He added the proper measures to fight the Aedes aegypti are still in effect, with the backup of three thousand health agents in Rio.

During the event 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, according to the minister.

Brazil has experience in organizing big events, such as the World Cup. “There was also a fuss and preoccupation back then regarding a possible epidemic of dengue fever, but only three cases were reported in tourists,” said Barros, who has reaffirmed to the International Olympic Committee that Brazil 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!” the minister concluded in the statement.

 

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