Brazil's sports minister dismisses concerns over Zika virus
London, June 8 (IANS) Brazil's sports minister Leonardo Picciani has dismissed concerns over Zika, saying the athletes and guests could head to the Rio Olympics feeling safe as necessary measures have been taken against the virus.
"I am confident that Brazil will face no problems because of the Zika virus and we can with certainty tell the athletes and all who want to visit Rio de Janeiro that they can feel safe heading to the Olympics," he said on Tuesday, reports Tass.
Picciani expressed the hope that by August, when South America will for the first time be the venue of the Olympics, the number of cases of transmitted Zika virus will drop to zero in Rio.
"A total of 4,000 cases of transmitted virus were fixed in Rio de Janeiro in April, while in May we managed to reduce their number to 700 cases. In June we hope to decrease them further and approach zero figures by August, when the Olympic Games will take place," the sports minister added.
On February 1, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Zika a global health emergency. More than 100,000 suspected Zika cases have been fixed in Brazil. WHO urged protection against mosquito bites, but did not insist on cancellation of the Rio Olympics.
"The WHO approved the measures the Brazilian government took in fight against the Zika virus," the minister said.
"The WHO supports the efforts we make, and this lets us confirm with certainty that we will receive all participants and guests of the Olympics, creating conditions for their safe health," he added.
"Brazil has carried out an awareness campaign to inform the population about a need of fight against the Aedes aegypti mosquito which transmits the infection," the minister said.
He also marked that over the past year Rio has hosted more than 40 competitions and none of them was marred by Zika infection incidents.
"From the middle of last year to April of this year, we organised 43 test competitions involving 7,000 athletes, many of whom will take part in the Olympic Games, and we had no cases of the Zika virus or Dengue fever during these test competitions," he stressed.
The Zika virus was first isolated in 1947 in the Zika Forest of Uganda. Last May, when the virus started rapidly spreading in Brazil and then spread to other countries of South and North America, it became a topic for wider discussion.
At the moment, outbreaks have been registered in Asia, Africa, in South and North America and in the Pacific region.
Medical professionals voice special concern for infected pregnant women, whose children risk brain damage.
The Rio Olympics will be held from August 5 to August 21, 2016. After that, Rio will host the Paralympic Games, due from September 7 to 18.