Zika in Rio



Athletes from numerous countries mingle in the rain as the Rio 2016 Closing Ceremony continues on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016 at Maracan in Brazil. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Nisha Klein, Page Editor

When it was first announced that the 2016 Olympics were to be held in Rio de Janeiro, excitement spread throughout the world. However, others were worried. Zika, a virus spread through mosquitoes, is an ongoing threat in Brazil, as well as many other countries and regions.

“Not everybody has the same risks,” Dr. Mike Diamond, the Associate Director of the Center for Human Immunology and Immunotherapy Programs, explains. “80 percent of the people never get any symptoms if they get exposed to Zika at all.” He lists the symptoms of this virus, which can include nausea, fatigue, and even conjunctivitis, adding, however, that, “Most times…it goes away on its own.”

”You get and you don’t know you have it, if you’re healthy.”

One of the major risks of contracting this virus is for pregnant people. Diamond adds that the mothers typically are fine, after the symptoms go away, and that the real risk is for the fetus. Sometimes the fetus dies, while other times the baby can be born with microcephaly, in which the brain does not fully develop. This can lead to many psychological, developmental, and physical problems, such as intellectual disorders, seizures, hearing loss, and vision problems.

Another risk is for the elderly, as they get develop meningitis or encephalitis, which is inflammation in the brain. For others, Zika can lead to autoimmune diseases, such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or GBS.

GBS is known to affect muscle function, and, when severe, that can include the muscles that control breathing. According to the CDC, however, these symptoms usually go away, and few people actually die from GBS.  

And in Brazil, these risks are present. Yet, occurrences of Zika rely on mosquito season. Diamond elaborates, saying, “They’re not at peak mosquito season right now,” which is “much earlier in the year.” Even as the Olympics were just starting, it was already ”towards end of the season.”

“The risk was substantially lower….Number one, it was the wrong season,” Diamond says. “Should they have canceled the Olympics or not? And I think the reality is that…there’s not no risk. But there’s not no risk in life.”