POC monitoring Zika outbreak in lead-up to Rio Olympics

DISINFECTION. Local workers disinfect the famous Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, January 26, 2016, to fight the Zika, dengue and chikungunya viruses. Photo by Marcelo Sayao/EPA
‘It is a potential health problem … not only for our athletes but for everyone else should they get infected’

MANILA, Philippines (Feb. 3, 2016) — The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) said it is closely monitoring the worsening Zika outbreak in Latin America, which comes months before the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The virus has infected some 1.5 million people in Brazil.

“I met with our team physician, Dr Ferdinand Brawner, to find out more about the virus and to discuss what measures we should take as a delegation. It is a potential health problem that could pose a problem not only for our athletes but for everyone else should they get infected,” POC first vice president and spokesman Jose “Joey” Romasanta told Rappler.

Romasanta assured the public that the POC is being vigilant. Zika initially seems like a minor case of the flu, but it is linked to neurological problems and birth defects that can cause brain damage and death.

“It is not as bad as dengue but the effect is still bad because you will be immobilized for a week. Right now, no one is sure if there are other effects outside what it does to pregnant women but you still want to take every precaution,” the POC official added.

“And there’s the risk of being infected but you might not know it until you go home to your country and that presents problems as well of a wider outbreak. It is a serious concern and the POC is on top of this.”

Last January 29, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that actions are being taken to combat the Zika virus.

Ugur Erdener, chairman of the IOC’s Medical and Scientific Commission, said that the IOC, Rio 2016 Organizing Committee, World Health Organization, and Brazil’s Armed Forces are working to ensure the safety of all athletes and travelers participating in the Summer Games.

“Fumigation, constant inspection of possible breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and the spread of literature regarding the virus is ongoing,” added Romasanta.

In the Philippines, the Department of Health advised Filipinos to remain alert amid the threat of the Zika virus.

rappler_64  by Rick Olivares | Rappler.com