Rio Olympics 2016: Come For The Sewage, Stay For The Zika Pandemic
Brazil is deploying 220,000 troops in February to:
A. Put down protests over the nation's Olympic spending.
B. Rid the Rio de Janiero favelas of drugs and gangs.
C. Help in the cleanup of Rio's waterways, which are so heavily polluted that some nations are hesitant to send their Olympic athletes to compete in boating events.
D. Spray the Summer Olympics venues with fresh, misty clouds of insecticide.
If you guessed D, then not only are you a winner, but you've probably already made plans to skip the Summer Games this August and visit Carlsbad Caverns.
The Brazilian government is breaking out the troops to combat the Zika virus, and soldiers will be going door-to-door to distribute educational pamphlets and warn residents. Zika has taken hold in Brazil and many other sub-tropical locations in South America.
The virus is believed to have arrived in the hemisphere in 2014, spread by mosquitoes, and has been linked to a brain defect in nearly 4,000 newborns.
But even as authorities knock on doors to warn people about the virus and spray tourist sites and mosquito hotbeds with insecticide, public health officials see no easy solution because the area is rife with the insects that transmit Zika and there is no vaccine.
"We are losing the battle in a big way," Marcelo Castro, Brazil's health minister, told reporters after meeting with President Dilma Rousseff late on Monday.
Yes, not only is there no vaccine, but authorities don't think that one can be developed for over a year. So far this hasn't impacted people's plans to come to the Olympics, say Brazilian travel experts (via Reuters). We suppose that once you've decided to brave the crime, pollution, protesters and construction delays, the chance of contracting a new virus isn't going to make much difference.
But the fact that the virus is new should be of concern to the Olympics Committee. The more people who learn about it in the coming six months, the more who will be changing their plans.
"Hello, Travelocity? Do you have a package that doesn't include the possibility of an infant brain virus?"
Rio officials are trying to combat the problem by getting the word out on preventive measures, and cleaning up the puddles and other areas where the mosquitoes thrive. However ...
In Rio, health agents sometimes cannot even enter neighborhoods because of crime and security risks.
Thousands are expected to flood into Rio for the Carnival beginning on Feb. 5, so at least we'll get a preview of coming attractions.
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