Zika Virus Update: U.S. Olympic Athletes Participating in Brazil Games Part of New Case Study On How The Virus Spreads

By Katherine Pine, Parent Herald July 06, 05:48 am

The National Institutes of Health announced on Tuesday that a new case study focusing on Zika Virus will involve United States Olympic and Paralympic participants in the games in Brazil in order to understand better how the disease spreads.

U.S. News reported that the Olympics will serve as a way for researchers to understand more about the virus since Brazil has been experiencing high number of cases of the Zika Virus. Scientists who are funded by the U.S. government will be testing the participants via collecting bodily fluids and handing out surveys to the participants. Aside from the athletes, coaches and staff who will volunteer to be tested will also be included.

The sexual partners of those who will participate in the study could also take part if they want to. The scientists are hoping to determine more about the infection and its risk factors. The study also aims to understand where the virus is present such as in the blood, vaginal secretions, semen, or saliva and for how long the virus survives in the body. Also, if any of the participants in the study should become pregnant, the scientists will also study the progress of the baby a year after the Olympics.

Dr. Catherine Spong, the acting director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which is now funding the recent study, said that the Olympics will be offering a "unique opportunity to answer important questions and help address an ongoing public health emergency."

Despite Zika virus being rampant in Brazil, the Olympic Committee told athletes and spectators that the virus spreading is at a very low risk level. Athletes fearing the contraction of the virus has dropped out of the games. The opening of the Olympics is set to begin next month.

Zika virus has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly, a case where babies are born with unusually small heads and underdeveloped brains. As for adults, the effect could develop to multiple sclerosis or a form of paralysis called Guillain Barre syndrome.

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