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Rio Olympics Faces Zika Virus

Olympic Games in Brazil in August heighten need for awareness of this emerging virus.

The Zika virus, possibly linked to serious birth defects in Brazil, has the potential to spread within the Americas, including parts of the US, according to an international team of researchers who track the spread of infectious diseases.

The Zika virus, native to parts of Africa and Asia, has for the first time been introduced into the Americas where it is spreading locally among people who have not travelled abroad. There is no vaccine against the virus or antiviral treatment.

“The summer Olympic Games in Brazil in August heighten the need for awareness of this emerging virus,” Dr. Kamran Khan of St. Michael’s Hospital wrote in a research letter published today in The Lancet.

In 1947, scientists researching yellow fever placed a rhesus macaque in a cage in the Zika Forest (zika meaning “overgrown” in the Luganda language), near the East African Virus Research Institute in Entebbe, Uganda.

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In April 2007, the first outbreak outside of Africa and Asia occurred on the island of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia, characterized by rash, conjunctivitis, and arthralgia, which was initially thought to be dengue, Chikungunya, or Ross River disease.

Since April 2015, a large, ongoing outbreak of Zika virus that began in Brazil has spread to much of South and Central America.

This month, in January 2016, USA’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a level 2 travel alert for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.[31] The agency also suggested that women thinking about becoming pregnant should consult with their physicians before traveling.

Plans were announced by the authorities in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to try to prevent the spread of the Zika virus during the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio. According to the CDC, Brazilian health authorities reported more than 3,500 microcephaly cases between October 2015 and January 2016.

More studies are planned to learn more about the risks of Zika virus infection during pregnancy.