WITH less than three months before the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 5-21, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued an advisory to participants in the Games as well as in the Paralympics that will follow. More than providing specific instructions to the athletes on what to do to protect themselves, the advisory should help assure all those planning to attend the Games.
Since the Zika threat burst on the world scene early this year, health officials around the world have expressed concern about its spread first around Latin America, then to the United States and the rest of North America. The Zika virus, spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, affected over a million people in Brazil alone. What was feared was not so much the mild fever, skin rash, muscle pains, and fatigue caused by Zika, as the brain defects it caused in babies carried by infected pregnant mothers.
Some health officials called for the Rio games to be moved, delayed, or both. Some 500,000 tourists were expected to attend the Olympics and they would be in danger of infection through mosquito bites. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), however, decided to proceed with the Games, seeing no justification for any delay, postponement, or moving the Games elsewhere.
Thus the Games will be held as scheduled. But the WHO has issued a list of reminders for both athletes and visitors.
They are advised to protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing clothing covering as much of the body as possible, use insect repellents, stay in air-conditioned quarters with windows closed, and avoid visiting impoverished areas which could be breeding grounds of mosquitoes. Pregnant women were specially advised not to travel to areas with ongoing Zika transmission, including Rio itself.
The Philippines will be sending its own Olympic delegation. A boxer, a hurdler, a table tennis player have already qualified and may be joined by a taekwondo competitor and more boxers. A Philippine basketball team is seeking qualification. And many officials and sports fans are bound to watch some of the Olympic events in Rio and a number of other cities in Brazil.
We join in wishing them and all the other world athletes going to the first Summer Olympics to be held in South America. The Philippines will be one of 206 nations expected to participate in 306 events in 28 sports. The best we have ever won in an Olympics is a silver medal. This may be our time to win the gold – especially if our Manny Pacquiao accepts the invitation to join the boxing competition, which is open for the first time to professionals, as in some other sports like basketball.
Through all these, our athletes, sports officials, and fans must keep in mind that Zika remains a real threat in Brazil and must, therefore, heed the advisory issued by the World Health Organization – for their own sakes as well as for the entire nation which will welcome them home after the Games.