Zika virus to sports stars during the Rio Olympics is negligible

  • Scores of athletes and leaders are refusing to fly to Brazil this summer
  • The country is the worst-hit by this year’s Zika virus epidemic
  • The infection can leave unborn babies with brain damage, birth defects
  • It is not yet clear how long the virus can survive in men and women
  • But a study claims in worst-case scenario 37 people will bring Zika home

The risk of sports stars or fans catching the Zika virus during the Rio Olympics is negligible, a study shows. 

Dozens of athletes – including every high profile golfer – is boycotting Rio because of the virus.  

And even attendees are skipping the games – the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry are just a few of the many high profile figures deciding not to attend.

But a new study has calculated that only three to 37 people will bring the mosquito-borne disease back to their countries – in a worst-case scenario.

The scientists behind the research insist this should quell fears about the disease’s spread. 

It is released hours after another study saying more than 1.6 million pregnant women are at risk of getting Zika – with Rio de Janeiro one of the most at-risk cities. 

Scroll down for video 

Kate and Wills are boycotting over Zika
Rory McIlroy is boycotting over Zika

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have joined champion golfer Rory McIlroy in boycotting the Rio games over fears about the Zika virus. However, a new study claims only 37 people will take it home – at worst

WHO ISN’T GOING? THE LEADERS AND ATHLETES BOYCOTTING RIO 

Brazil has assured visitors they have the mosquito-borne virus under control but several big names have pulled out.

Golfers Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth cited Zika as their reason for boycotting the games – even though it is the first time in about a century that golf has been included in the roster. 

Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry have decided not to attend the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro because of fears over the Zika virus.  

Princess Anne is likely to be the only member of Britain’s royal family in Rio.

But the princess, a member of the International Olympic Committee and keen equestrian, will not be joined by her daughter Zara Phillips.

Phillips won a silver medal in 2012 but has not been selected for this year’s three-day eventing team.

Princess Charlene of Monaco also decided against attending the Olympics because of the virus. 

Tejay Van Garderen, the champion American cyclist, withdrew his name from consideration for the road cycling team at the beginning of June.

He was the first major name to officially pull out.

His wife is currently pregnant, and he said he did not want to risk infecting their unborn baby with Zika, which is sexually-transmitted.

Marc Leishman, an Australian golfer, said his wife’s immune system is weak after contracting Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) last year.

He told reporters it was an unfortunate decision to miss golf’s first Olympics, but an easy one.

Golfers Jason Day (Australia), Branden Grace (South Africa), Charl Schwartzel (South Africa), Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa), and Vijay Singh (Fiji) are also boycotting.

Savannah Guthrie, Today host, will skip the games over Zika. 

She has recently announced her second pregnancy.

Guthrie said on air: ‘The doctors say we shouldn’t because of the Zika virus. So I’ll miss it.’

This is out of the tens of thousands of athletes, spectators, media and vendors who will descend on Brazil for the 16-day extravaganza.

The findings support the World Health Organisation’s view that the Olympics will not play a significant role in the international spread of Zika.

But they contradict a recommendation by 150 members of the international academic community to cancel or relocate the games to protect health.

Doctoral candidate Joseph Lewnard, of Yale University in Connecticut, said: ‘It’s important to understand the low degree of risk posed by the Olympics in the scheme of many other factors contributing to international Zika virus spread.’

The study published in Annals of Internal Medicine used a mathematical model that accounted for a variety of factors including recent Zika transmission in Rio de Janeiro, seasonal conditions and travel patterns.

Over half of visitors attending the Olympics are expected to return to high-income countries where there is negligible risk for establishing local spread of the virus, said the researchers.

About 30 per cent will travel to Latin American countries where transmission is already established – so they will not play an important role in further spread.

Professor Albert Ko said: ‘The possibility travellers returning from the Olympics may spread Zika has become a polemic issue that has led to athletes dropping out of the event, and without evidence, undue stigmatization of Brazil.

Zika is a concern for pregnant women as they face a risk of giving birth to a child with a malformed skull and brain. Officials have urged expectant mothers to avoid travelling to infected areas

Zika is a concern for pregnant women as they face a risk of giving birth to a child with a malformed skull and brain. Officials have urged expectant mothers to avoid travelling to infected areas

Today, a study estimated that more than 1.6 million pregnant women will get infected in Latin America, with Rio one of the highest-risk cities. But another study claims visiting fans and athletes are not at risk

Today, a study estimated that more than 1.6 million pregnant women will get infected in Latin America, with Rio one of the highest-risk cities. But another study claims visiting fans and athletes are not at risk

HOPE SOLO SHOWS OFF THE ‘ZIKA PROOF’ ARSENAL SHE’S PACKING

Hope Solo is making sure she's 'Zika proof' during the Rio Olympics by packing an anti-mosquito hat

Hope Solo is making sure she’s ‘Zika proof’ during the Rio Olympics by packing an anti-mosquito hat

Hope Solo is making sure she’s ‘Zika proof’ during the Rio Olympics by packing a massive amount of bug repellent.

The goalkeeper is getting ready for the Games, which start August 5, where the US women’s team are hoping to score gold again.

But she isn’t taking any chances when it comes to the virus that is rife in Brazil.

Solo, 34, took to Twitter to Friday to show off her Zika arsenal: ‘If anyone in the village forgot to pack repellent, come and see me.’

She also shared a selfie wearing her anti-mosquito bonnet with a bottle of bug repellent. 

Solo has been vocal about her concerns with going to Rio since earlier this year.

In February, Solo, who is married to former NFL star Jerramy Stevens, said athletes are facing are difficult choice due to Zika. 

Unlike some sports, soccer players will be travelling all around Brazil for the Games and not staying only in Rio de Janeiro. 

‘This study provides data, which together with initial findings from Brazilian scientists, show these concerns may be largely exaggerated.’

It’s projected the Olympics could draw as many as 500,000 visitors to Rio where it is currently winter and mosquito activity has subsided.

Zika arrived in Brazil about two years ago and has since spread rapidly throughout the country and much of the hemisphere.

If contracted by pregnant women it can lead to babies being born with microcephaly, a congenital disorder marked by a smaller-than-average head, as well as Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune condition.

Many who are infected exhibit mild symptoms or no signs of illness at all. 

Mr Lewnard said it’s important policymakers and the public have accurate information about health concerns associated with travel to Brazil.

He said: ‘Communicating evidence-based assessments is a priority to ensure effective public health responses are targeted to where they are needed most.’

The World Health Organization says Zika is rapidly spreading in the Americas because it is new to the region.

People aren’t immune to it, and the Aedes mosquito that carries it is just about everywhere – including along the southern United States.

It is typically transmitted through bites from the Aedes species of mosquitoes.

They are aggressive feeders, commonly biting multiple people in quick succession, fueling the spread of the virus.  

The Aedes aegypti – which spreads other tropical diseases like dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever – is most commonly associated with Zika. It thrives in warm climates. 

Its cousin, the Aedes albopictus has also been linked to Zika. Worryingly for Americans in northern states, this species can survive in cooler temperatures. 

Unlike some other types of mosquitos, Aedes mosquitos are active during the daytime.

They are most active during mid-morning and then again between late afternoon and nightfall.

Scientists have found Zika can be transmitted sexually – from both men and women.  

Couples should abstain or wear condoms for eight weeks if either partner has traveled to a country with a Zika outbreak, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

A mother can pass the virus to her unborn baby during pregnancy. 

There are two ways this can happen, according to a recent study. 

During the first trimester, it can travel through the placenta by infecting numerous placental cells – something very few viruses can do. This route is the most damaging to the fetus, and is most likely to leave the child with birth defects, including microcephaly.

In the second and third trimester, the virus can make its way through the amniotic sac. 

This route is less likely. The baby would have a much smaller risk of birth defects at this stage than if it were infected in the first trimester. 

Since the virus can live in the woman’s womb lining, there is a chance the baby can become infected when it is born. 

Health | Mail Online