By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The chief of staff in Brazil, Jaques Wagner, says there is no possibility of the cancellation of the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in August due to the outbreak of the Zika virus in the country. This comes a day after the World Health Organization (WHO) stated the Zika outbreak was to be considered a global emergency.
“The mobilization in Brazil) is not only due to the Olympics. It is because of a serious health problem,” said Wagner at a press conference after a meeting with President Dilma Rousseff and all cabinet members to talk about the surge of Zika and actions Brazil will take to combat the virus.
Wagner also said that the Zika virus, spread via the Aedes aegypti mosquito, is only a threat to pregnant women and those who plan to get pregnant in the near future. “The only way to avoid it is with knowledge.”
When commenting on the possible reduction in attendance of a significant number of visitors to the Games due to the virus, Wagner added “I believe that people will not be fearful of coming, unless that person is pregnant or trying (to get pregnant).”
On Monday the WHO stated that although most people who are infected with the virus do not present any symptoms, Brazilian scientists have linked the Zika virus to the increased incidence of newborns in the country with microcephaly, a congenital condition characterized by the abnormal smallness of the head.
This week the Brazilian government announced a mandatory report by state and local authorities of Zika virus cases. The government has also made it mandatory for households to allow health professionals into all homes to check for possible breeding grounds of the mosquito
In addition to the Zika virus the Aedes aegypti mosquito also transmits chikungunya and dengue fever and although Zika is fairly harmless to most (non-pregnant) humans, the dengue virus can be deadly.