IOC urges visitors to Rio to be vigilant

  • 30/01/2016

By Karolos Grohmann

The International Olympic Committee assured teams travelling to August's Rio Olympics the Games would be safe from the Zika virus, but urged visitors to carefully protect themselves while in the region.

The IOC offered advice to minimise the risk of infection from the virus, transferred by mosquitoes, and said travellers to Brazil should consult their national health authorities.

Recommendations included using mosquito repellent and wearing long-sleeved shirts and trousers. Women who may be pregnant have been urged to discuss the trip with their health care provider.

"The IOC remains in close contact with the WHO (World Health Organisation) to ensure that we have access to the most up-to-date information and guidance, from now through to Games time," the IOC's medical commission said.

"At the same time, National Olympic Committees should consult with their national health authorities to get advice and guidance," it said in its note to NOCs and international sports federations.

The Zika virus, spreading fast across South and Central America, has been clinically linked to a foetal deformation known as microcephaly, in which infants are born with abnormally small heads and brains.

The virus, a close cousin of dengue and chikungunya, causes rash, mild fever and red eyes.

Some 80 percent of those infected typically do not have symptoms, making it difficult for pregnant women to determine if they have the virus.

No vaccine or treatment is currently available.

Much of the effort against the illness focuses on protecting people from mosquito bites and reducing mosquito populations.

Some 10,000 athletes will be competing at the August 5-21 Games with tens of thousands more staff, officials and media attending the world's biggest sporting event, apart from the hundreds of thousands of spectators and visitors in the Brazilian city.