NEW YORK – Remember the 2010 Winter Olympics? The biggest fear then was arriving in Vancouver during a burst of swine flu cases. Research teams rushed to the British Columbia city to study the outbreak. It was a unique opportunity for doctors with the goal of finding better treatments… but the swine flu stayed dormant.
Over the next few weeks, doctors will have a second opportunity to study illnesses as Olympians face a new pandemic: Zika.
The mosquito-borne virus has been linked to hundreds of birth defects and paralysis.
A New York personal injury lawyer at Cellino & Barnes said travelers should be aware of Zika’s heavy presence in South America as the 2016 Summer Games begin.
“Whether it’s an airborne illness, foodborne illness or it’s transmitted by mosquitoes, a sickness or disease can quickly turn the vacation of a lifetime into a nightmare,” New York personal injury attorney Ross Cellino said.
More than 200 physicians and researchers signed a letter demanding that the Olympic Games be postponed or moved from Rio de Janeiro due to concerns over the spread of Zika virus.
Despite those concerns and a high number of cases in Brazil, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently wrote there is little risk of causing new outbreaks at this year’s Olympic Games. New York personal injury lawyers however urge travelers to use caution.
“Anytime there’s a large gathering of people from around the globe, there’s an increased risk of contracting a serious illness,” Cellino said. “Zika is particularly dangerous because doctors have yet to develop a treatment or vaccine that could minimize or eliminate the virus’ effects.”
Many health officials still predict that some athletes and spectators will contract the Zika virus. Health and safety advocates point out that the CDC’s report simply assessed the risk of spreading the outbreak to countries or areas that are not currently at risk for Zika.
The CDC currently has travel advisories for more than 50 nations. The agency said Zika is already circulating around the globe and many of the athletes and spectators that will be in Rio this week arrived from countries that are already affected by Zika, so the risk of spreading the disease further is minimal.
Even the United States is not immune to the Zika’s global reach. At least 15 people are believed to have acquired the virus from local mosquito populations near Miami.
Brazilian authorities have also been proactive by stomping-out any mosquito breeding grounds and fumigating the Olympic venues where mosquito populations tend to thrive. While most people are attending the Olympics in support of their home nations, doctors and scientists are attending for humanitarian reasons; and it’s not just Zika they’re watching.
The World Health Organization will be watching for other viruses, including dengue and yellow fever, food poisoning and the flu, which can have radically different strains circulating in the southern hemisphere.
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