Could Olympians bring home Zika virus with their medals?

By Sam Siomko, Staff Writer


As the United States continues to wipe the floor in the medal count at the Rio Olympics this year, concerns surrounding conditions on and off the playing fields are still an issue. The whole Australian team had been robbed, and then there was that time the diving pool turned green. But before the Olympic torch was even lit, Zika was all over the news.

Zika is a virus that is spread through mosquito bites. People who are infected with the virus may show flu-like symptoms, have red eyes, and develop a rash, but many people do not even show symptoms. The biggest concern, however, seems to be the damage it can do to unborn babies.

The virus causes microcephaly, a defect in infants where the brain does not fully form. Should people be afraid that the instances of Zika will increase in the States once everyone returns from Rio? According to a report conducted by the Yale School of Public Health, those fears may not be warranted.

Their study claims that only about six to eighty visitors in total will be infected with Zika in Rio during the extent of the games. That does not seem too huge when compared to the half-a-million visitors who traveled to Rio this year. Likewise, it is winter in the southern hemisphere, so the number of mosquitoes in Rio are lower than in the warmer months. With so many people in Rio right now and the low mosquito count, the chance is low that an infected mosquito would bite a U.S. citizen.

This is called “herd immunity” where most of the members of a large population are protected since the infected mosquitoes have a higher chance of biting someone else. The idea of new and unknown diseases might be scary; however, the news agencies that blow such stories out of proportion do more harm than good. So do not worry if Simone Biles or Michael Phelps comes back with an exotic virus. More likely than not, the only thing Biles and Phelps and other U.S. Olympians will be bringing home is the gold.

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