An as-of-yet untreatable virus with relatively unknown consequences could interfere with the Olympics this summer.
That disease is Zika, and Brazil, which is set to host the games in August, has been dealing with a sizeable outbreak. To cope with the mosquito-borne virus, the Brazilian government has said it plans to start inspecting facilities where the games will be hosted four months before they are set to begin to try and eliminate potential breeding areas for the insects, the BBC reports.
The country’s health ministry said it would also consider fumigating, though it wouldn’t be their first choice, since those chemicals could affect the people attending the games.
The ministry is also counting on the fact that August will be a drier and cooler month, meaning the mosquitoes should be less prevalent.
The Zika virus is primarily transmitted by Aedes aegypti, the type of mosquito responsible for spreading dengue, yellow fever, and a whole host of other tropical infectious diseases.
The virus is spread when mosquitoes pick it up from infected people and then bite and infect others, according to the CDC. For the most part, people who are infected have fairly minor symptoms like fever, rash, painful joints and conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye), although some short-term neurological conditions have been connected with the disease as well.
A total of 22 countries and territories have seen the Zika virus transmitted locally — though more, including the US, have encountered infections from travellers returning home after visiting those countries — and the World Health Organisation expects the virus to make its way into all countries in the Americas except Canada and continental Chile, where the
Aedes aegypti isn’t present.
There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika.
The increased presence of the virus has raised concerns because of its connection with birth defects in babies whose mothers have been infected with the disease.
Brazil, one of the areas hit hardest by the disease, has seen about 20 times the normal amount of babies born with a condition called microcephaly in 2015 compared to 2014. This birth defect, in which the brain is abnormally small, has often been discovered after the mother presented with Zika virus-like symptoms early in the pregnancy.
Researchers still aren’t sure whether the virus causes the birth defects, but there does appear to be a link. Earlier this week, the CDC issued interim guidelines for pregnant women travelling to countries where the disease is being transmitted, while some countries have gone as far as to advise citizens not to get pregnant.
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