Health of Olympic Games visitors is a priority for Brazil

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 June, 2016, 4:09pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 June, 2016, 10:18pm

We are less than two months away from the beginning of the greatest sports event on the planet. Brazil is expected to welcome representatives from around 200 countries and 500,000 international tourists. The country’s health-care system is duly prepared for this big moment, with preventive actions in place against the Aedes aegypti mosquito, 24/7 monitoring 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. 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.

Specialists from the World Health Organisation 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 per cent of all travel to Zika-affected areas, according to the United States’ Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, the virus is already circulating in 60 countries, and Brazil represents 15 per cent 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 mobilisation actions to fight the mosquito, like home visits, have caused an early fall of Zika rates – infection cases dropped by 87 per cent between February and May of the current year.

The monitoring of this data is still in progress, in partnership with the WHO. The measures to fight the Aedes aegypti are still in effect, with the backup of 3,000 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.

Brazil has experience in organising 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 among 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 people’s 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 taking all necessary care and measures so that the games will be a milestone in sports. Therefore, come to the Olympic Games!

Ricardo Barros, Minister of Health of Brazil