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 at least 200 countries and 500,000 international tourists. The country’s healthcare system is prepared for this big moment, with preventive measures already in place against the Aedes aegypti — the mosquito that carries the Zika virus — 24/7 monitoring in the six cities hosting the games and trained professionals who are qualified to tend to emergencies.
The circulation of the Zika virus will not keep us from having a safe and unforgettable event for athletes, participants and spectators. A study published by the University of Cambridge forecasts that the risks of infection of minimal.
World Health Organization specialists corroborated that the risk of contracting 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 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, the virus is already circulating in 60 countries, and Brazil represents 15 percent of the exposed population.
The games will be played in Brazil in winter time, when diseases borne by the Aedes aegypti are spread at a lower rate. In addition, our mobilization efforts to fight the mosquito, such as home visits and investments in monitoring and prevention, have caused an early reduction in Zika rates — infection cases dropped 87 percent between February and May.
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We have been transparent in the monitoring and follow-up of data, still in progress through a partnership with the WHO. The proper measures to fight the Aedes aegypti are still in effect, with the backup of 3,000 health agents in Rio.
During preparation for the games, 51 test events were performed, monitored by the Ministry of Health, and no case of infection resulted. 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 a 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 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 take all necessary measures so that the games are a historic milestone in sports. We encourage people, therefore, to come to the Olympic Games.
Ricardo Barros is Brazil’s minister of health.