Believe It or Not, the Zika Threat at the Olympics Isn't That Big of a Deal
A new study claims we may be overstating the significance of the Zika threat in Rio at this summer's Olympic games.
Given the epidemic number of people who have contracted the mosquito-borne Zika virus in Brazil, both experts and Olympians alike have expressed concerns over attending the upcoming summer games in Rio. From U.S. cyclist Tejay van Garderen, to golfers Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, to pregnant NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie, who was set to cover the Olympics, many boldfaced names have declined to participate over Zika fears. But according to a new study out of Yale and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the actual threat is not that great.
The study's co-author Gregg Gonsalves, co-director of the Global Health Justice Partnership, a joint program of Yale Law School and Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Connecticut, said, "Yes, Zika is an epidemic. Yes, we need to invest in combating Zika. But we need to make policy based on the best available evidence and not overstate our case."
He estimates that of the half a million people who will flock to Rio for the games, only between 3 and 37 will return to the U.S. while still contagious, as the virus remains in the body for just 10 days. Around 80 travelers to the games will contract Zika, and only between one and 16 of them will experience any symptoms.
But isn't that enough? Because as we know, the illness can multiply quickly.
According to Health Day, this study is in keeping with what the World Health Organization has also said, which is that the Rio Games are not expected to play any significant role in the international spread of Zika. "Based on several modeling studies, the risk to non-pregnant visitors or competitors to the Olympics seems to be manageable and does not merit any postponement or abstention. It is more likely, by some estimates, that visitors to the Olympics will contract influenza than Zika," explained Amesh Adalja, M.D., senior associate at the University of Pittsburgh's UPMC Center for Health Security in Baltimore.
It's important to note that experts' claims about Zika's potential effects in light of the games are based in large part on the fact that it's actually winter in Brazil, so mosquitoes aren't going to be as active. Also helping to curb the mosquito issue is that most competitors and visitors will be staying in screened-in, air-conditioned accommodations.
But it's still unlikely pregnant women, who are at greatest risk due to Zika's potential to cause birth defects in babies, will attend the games. I know I wouldn't risk it if I were pregnant or attempting to get pregnant.
What is your take? Would you go to Rio while pregnant or TTC?
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.