Nothing is going to stop the Olympics from being staged at Rio de Janeiro, not even the Zika virus outbreak which the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared as a global emergency. But Brazil is making one concession though. It has warned pregnant women to stay away from the Games.
The Rio Olympics scheduled to take place in August poses no risk to athletes and spectators, says Brazil. "We have to explain to those coming to Brazil, the athletes, that there is zero risk if you are not a pregnant woman," President Dilma Rouseff's chief of staff Jaques Wagner said.
Wagner however issued a warning to pregnant women. "The risk, which I would say is serious, is for pregnant women. It is clearly not advisable for you [to travel to the Games] because you don't want to take that risk."
Downplaying the WHO alert, Wagner said Rouseff viewed it as "positive" as it "alerts the whole world, including the scientific world, to the danger of the new virus." He continued: "If you're an adult, a man or a woman who isn't pregnant, you develop antibodies in about five days and [the disease] passes. I understand that no one needs to be afraid if you are not pregnant."
There is no vaccine or medication for the Zika virus. The only way to avoid getting it is to not get bitten by the Aedes mosquito which transmits the infection.
On Monday, WHO Director General Margaret Chan declared the Zika outbreak as a "public health emergency of international concern." The fact that it has put the Zika outbreak in the same category as Ebola should indicate the seriousness of the situation.
There have been around 4,000 reported cases of microcephaly in Brazil alone since October. WHO has warned that Zika is likely to "spread explosively" across nearly all the Americas. So far, more than 20 countries, including Brazil have already reported cases of Zika.
Although most of the infections are said to be mild and cause few or no symptoms, there have been some reported cases of a rare paralysis disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome. The mosquito-borne virus is suspected of causing microcephaly or abnormally small heads in babies. The health threat is believed to be more significant in pregnancy, to the unborn child.