What to Know About Zika Virus and the 2016 Rio Olympics

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As many of us look forward to the summer Olympics, and being that it only happens every four years, this is most certainly a momentous and exciting time. However, these Olympics pose a special circumstance with an undercurrent of concern, as the hosting city, Rio de Janeiro, is at the forefront of the Zika Virus outbreak.

While there is differing research on the likelihood of contracting Zika Virus in Rio, everyone traveling there should educate themselves on the virus, by using resources available that provide the most up-to-date Zika Virus health information, including the CDC, WHO and LabFinder.com’s Zika Virus Resource Center. Understanding everything from contracting Zika Virus, its signs and symptoms, to diagnostic tests and where to get tested, can help prepare those who may be affected; as well as to help those concerned take necessary precautions to prevent spreading it, and worsening this already devastating epidemic.

As of August 4, there are more than 1,800 cases of Zika Virus in the U.S., according to the CDC. Concerns with Americans spreading Zika Virus upon returning from the Olympics are rooted in the potential of unknowingly contracting the virus and becoming a carrier, infecting mosquitoes in the U.S., as well as increasing the threat of transmitting it to others.

Likewise, Zika Virus can be transmitted through sex or passed from mother to unborn child. Zika Virus poses significant danger to pregnant women and their unborn child, putting the child at risk for microcephaly, smaller than average head size with abnormal brain growth, and other serious birth defects. When trying to conceive, consult a physician and stay informed about whether your partner or anyone you are planning to be sexually active with has traveled to a Zika Virus “hot zone” or affected area, like Rio, in the past six months. Specifically, men are required to wait six months before actively trying to conceive a child if they test positive for Zika Virus.

Most people will not show symptoms of having Zika Virus. Those that do, usually have mild symptoms that may include fever, joint pain, rash, or redness of the eyes, which often resolve on their own within a week. The only way to know for sure if you have contracted Zika Virus is to Get Tested. Everyone traveling to Rio, whether spectator or competitor, should get tested for Zika Virus as soon as they return.

While there is no FDA-cleared or approved tests that exist to conclusively diagnose Zika Virus, the FDA has issued Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for several diagnostic tools for Zika Virus, including the Trioplex Real-Time RT-PCR (rRT-PCR) assay and the Zika Virus MAC-ELISA, which are blood and urine tests that can be performed by the CDC and several state and local health departments.

Most importantly, don’t panic. Knowledge is power, so stay in the know by referring to Zika Virus resources. If you or someone you know is attending the Olympics, be sure to take the necessary steps to prevent mosquito bites, get tested conveniently at a nearby lab immediately upon return, practice safe sex, and know your risk!