Half a million tourists and over ten thousand athletes are expected in Rio de Janeiro for the Summer Olympic Games. This is the first time that the event will be held in South America and amidst health concerns, doubts about the readiness of infrastructure, political turmoil and an economic crisis, Rio promises to be a unique setting for the Olympics. But it's not just the press that has a lot to talk about the games: medical journals also take this opportunity to discuss several aspects of science, health and sport.
Over a week before the official opening of the Olympic Games, Evidências – Kantar Health conducted a quick literature search to map what medical journals are saying about the event and found 50 articles addressing some aspect of the competition. Papers analyzed the signs of progress in physical activity report and monitoring by several countries since the London Olympics, the possibility that scheduling night competitions in the games might hinder athletes’ performances, and how genetic variations might influence the result of elite sprint runners. The levels of air pollution in Rio de Janeiro’s slums and its impact on athletes’ health and performance, as well as the poor quality of physical activity resources in those areas and the appalling lack of sewage treatment contaminating the waters of Guanabara Bay have also been examined.
But near half of the articles focused on the zika virus epidemic and other arboviroses, their likely consequences and how athletes, visitors and the population in general should protect themselves. The recent outbreak of zika in Brazil brought ample attention to this and other arboviroses. In Brazil, the most recent data from the Ministry of Health show that from February to April this year, 91,300 probable cases of zika were reported in the country, 802,000 of dengue and 39,000 of chikungunya. However, the problem is not restricted to Brazil: according to World Health Organization (WHO) data, transmission of zika and chikungunya has been documented in more than 60 countries in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe. Moreover, dengue is considered endemic in more than 100 countries.
Detailed data on the incidence of zika in every State and Region can be found for 2016, however official numbers regarding the impact of the disease in 2015 are still lacking, since the mandatory report was only determined last February. The latest epidemiologic bulletin emitted by the governmental organ states that between January 3rd and June 11th there were 165,932 likely cases of zika fever in Brazil, of which 66,180 had been confirmed by tests.
Most authors did not support the postponement of the Games, particularly because delaying the event would place it in the middle of Summer, the hottest and most humid season when mosquito populations increase all over the country. An extensive review of data regarding mass gatherings around the world (sports-related or religious) summarized the lessons learned and the implications for the Olympics in Brazil. The virus is present in over 60 countries and the risk of infection is real with or without the Olympics. The authors reinforce that any potential risks caused by mass gatherings can be lessened when they are previously recognized and planned for, and emphasize that, other events already occurred in the country without significant international spread.
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