Why Zika risk is low for Olympic athletes in Rio

Some health professionals have lobbied to postpone the upcoming Rio de Janeiro Olympics due to the risk of the Zika virus, which is spread by mosquitos and – less commonly – through sexual intercourse. Other experts disagree that Zika poses a significant enough threat to warrant changing the venue or date of the games, set for August 5 to August 21.

“The risk of Zika infection in Rio during the Olympics is very low,” says Uriel Kitron, chair of Emory’s Department of Environmental Sciences and an expert on mosquito-borne diseases. “But if you are pregnant, or are thinking of getting pregnant right now as part of a couple, then you may want to consider even this low risk of transmission, given the potential serious complications.” Dr. Kitron is a faculty memeber in the PBEE program. 

He refers travelers to the current advisory of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC advises women who are pregnant “to consider not going to the Olympics,” due to the link between Zika infections and severe birth defects. The CDC also recommends special precautions for men and women to practice safe sex following any possible exposure to the Zika virus.

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