I think it’s hard to argue that prevention of disease in the case of the Zika virus does beat a pound of cure. We are unlikely to have a vaccine in the near future and there is no specific treatment for the illness. The mixed good/bad news is that roughly 80% of those infected are unlikely to even know they have the disease. The bad news is if the patient happens to be a a female who is in any stage of pregnancy, it raises the potential for a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly. We have the 2016 Olympics coming up in Rio de Janeiro in August. More than one million visitors and athletes are expected for the games in Brazil. If you’re in healthcare, what advice would you give to an individual? If you’re in emergency management or public health what advice would you give in order to try and prevent the disease from returning to your community?
While the mosquito is the primary vector, there is concern now that the disease can spread via blood transfusions from an ill donor and also through sexual contact with an ill person. Since November 2015, Brazil has seen 404 confirmed cases of microcephaly in newborns. Seventeen of those cases have a confirmed link to the Zika virus. Fifteen babies have died from the condition, with five linked to Zika. An additional 56 deaths are under investigation, and authorities are investigating 3,670 suspected cases. CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden recently said: “The priority is protecting pregnant women,” “If you’re pregnant, and you’re thinking about traveling to a place were Zika is spreading, please don’t.” “Men who live in or travel to areas of active Zika infections and who have a pregnant sexual partner should use latex condoms correctly, or refrain from sex until the pregnancy has come to term.”
I think this raises some interesting questions regarding what information is being provided regarding the disease, prevention and potential complications of illness. I expect that the majority of our athletes will be in the child bearing and/or child producing age bracket. I accessed the Team USA Road to Rio website while writing this post and there is zero mention of Zika in Brazil. Do you think there should at least be links to CDC and/or WHO information to help athletes make an informed decision? Certainly bragging rights for medal counts does not trump the personal safety of athletes does it?
My personal opinion is that athletes will be more likely to be injured in a motor vehicle accident than contracting Zika if they take reasonable precautions to prevent mosquito bites. I can’t speak to any issues of ingredients in bug spray that may show up as daughter products of a performance enhancing drug. I understand there is a shortage of bug spray and mosquito netting in Brazil so visitors better pack their own. Remember only 3.4 ounces if you’re putting it in your carry on. I would hate to see TSA confiscate your bug spray and increase your risk of contracting disease and consequently importing it back into the country.
I’m curious what you would do if you were the athlete and/or planning on visiting during the games?