Brazil is the epicentre of the current Zika virus outbreak
— and it’s also the site of the upcoming Olympic games. A number of top athletes have backed out of attending the games out of fear of catching the mosquito-borne virus.
Yet, according to a calculation from a team of scientists from London, Brazil and Singapore, women visiting Rio de Janeiro — the Olympic host city — are more than 10 times more likely to get raped than become infected with Zika.
Additionally, men going to Rio have a more than 10 times higher risk of being shot than getting Zika.
“Of course, these… estimations are crude,” the scientists wrote, although they noted that comparing the risk of Zika and other local dangers could be “useful as a quantitative reference of competitive risks for visitors to Rio.”
The calculation came from scientists based at University of Sao Paulo, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, who sought to investigate whether Zika actually poses a significant risk to tourists and athletes planning to attend the Olympics. Their findings appeared in a manuscript for a medical journal.
The New York Times‘ Vanessa Barbara recently examined all of the problems plaguing the upcoming Olympics, including safety issues relating to drug violence in Rio, the risk of Zika, and half-built facilities for the games.
Many people in Brazil have greeted these concerns with scorn, especially since the virus seems to be a “minor problem,” The Times reported, referencing the calculation.
The virus, which is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, can be passed from pregnant mother to foetus, and is known to cause a birth defect called microcephaly, in which babies have abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains.
It can also be transmitted sexually from an infected male to his partner, which is particularly problematic if the partner is a pregnant woman. That is why several top male athletes, who have pregnant wives or are planning to conceive, have decided not to attend the games.
“Although the risk of Zika infection during the time of the Olympic games is extremely low, we think that pregnant women should avoid visiting any region of the world where Zika virus circulation has been reported, including Rio de Janeiro, a suggestion in line with international and national public health guidelines,” the scientists wrote.
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