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Number of cases of Zika reported in Brazil drops by 87%

Published: Friday, 10 June 2016 15:38 | Last Updated: Tuesday, 06 December 2016 15:28

Data indicates reduction of diseases transmitted by Aedes aegypti, resulting from national mobilization against the mosquito. Zika virus transmission during the Olympics will be minimal.

Data indicates reduction of diseases transmitted by Aedes aegypti, resulting from national mobilization against the mosquito. Zika virus transmission during the Olympics will be minimal.

The risk of transmission of diseases by the Aedes aegypti mosquito in Brazil during the period of the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be minimal. This is what the data presented by the Minister of Health, Ricardo Barros, on Friday (10), in Rio de Janeiro, during a press conference with foreign correspondents, indicates. The indices of cases of the Zika virus are declining in the country and have already fallen 87% in the comparison between February and May this year.

Reports of the disease peaked in the third week of February, with 16,059 cases. In the first week of May, reports plunged to 2,053. The figures demonstrate, once again, the effectiveness of the actions taken against the Aedes aegypti mosquito, apart from indicating a different behavior than usual this year. In 2016, the cases started declining earlier than expected, since until then the diseases transmitted by the Aedes aegypti peaked in April.

"According to a study released by the University of Cambridge, it is expected there will be less than one case of infection among the 500,000 tourists planning to come to the Olympics. The risk of Zika will be minimal, primarily due to the climatic conditions of the season and the mobilization against the mosquito here in Rio de Janeiro," stressed Minister Ricardo Barros. He also said that Rio de Janeiro will receive a reinforcement of 2,500 health professionals and that repellent, specific clothing and the necessary materials will be available for all athletes under the responsibility of the Olympic Committee. "As with the FIFA World Cup and World Youth Day, we have no doubt that the Olympic Games will be bolstered by the hospitality of the Brazilian people and the quality in carrying out mega events," he concluded.

In the cities where there will be Olympic and Paralympic games, the figures indicate similar behavior as the national ones, with the disease peaking around February and then significantly receding in the following months. The city of Rio de Janeiro, for example, had the highest number of reported cases in the third week of February, with 2,116. In the following weeks, the numbers decreased, dropping to 208 cases in May, representing a reduction of 90%.

Contrary to the northern hemisphere, it is winter in Brazil, when historically and epidemiologically the rates of diseases transmitted by the mosquito are declining and reach their lowest rate. This period is precisely in August and September, when the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held in Brazil.

The Minister of Health, Ricardo Barros, recalls that in the 2014 FIFA World Cup people were also nervous about coming to the country and catching diseases transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquito. "During the World Cup, there were only three recorded cases among tourists. Statistics show that the period of the games is not endemic. This is mainly because there is less rain in the winter, which hinders the proliferation of mosquitoes," he said.

STUDIES – A recent study by scientists from Hospital São Paulo/Paulista School of Medicine of São Paulo and scientists from four other countries, published in the Cambridge Journals, England, points out that the risk of tourists contracting the Zika virus during the Olympic and Paralympic Games is 1.8 cases per one million people. To determine the probability, researchers analyzed the curve of cases by epidemiological week of dengue in the city of Rio de Janeiro. After the analysis it was possible to calculate a parameter for the presence of Aedes aegypti during the period of the games in 2016.

Based on a projection of 500,000 foreign tourists for the Games, this would be less than one case of Zika in the period. "If one million tourists were to come to Brazil during the Olympics, which is a considerable number, there would probably not be more than five cases of Zika among tourists. So it's a very low risk with a small impact from a public health point of view," emphasized Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp) professor, Marcelo Burattini, one of the authors of the study. In the professor's opinion, there will be virtually no transmission of diseases by Aedes aegypti in Brazil's Southeast region during the period of the Olympics. "Our estimate should be considered as the upper limit, as the maximum risk that could occur. The actual risk is likely to be less than that," he stated.

OLYMPICS – The Ministry of Health, in partnership with the state government of Rio de Janeiro and the city of Rio de Janeiro, has taken a number of measures across the country to ensure health care during the competition. An investment of BRL 72 million was made to purchase, equip and cover the expenses of 146 ambulances that will be on call for the population during the period of the games. BRL 2.8 million has also been allocated for the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) – such as protective gloves and masks – and antidotes for chemical, biological and radiological emergencies, as well as training for 1,700 professionals for emergency situations such as chemical or biological accidents.

Two thousand five hundred temporary health professionals are also being hired, including physicians, nurses and nursing technicians to bolster health services in the federal hospitals of the state of Rio. There will also be 3,500 professionals, such as external agents to inspect and eliminate dengue hot spots, educate people and visit all the surrounding regions of the areas where the Games will be held. The CIOCS (Integrated Center for Joint Health Operations) will be activated on July 5 to monitor risk situations, health care demand and epidemiological and health surveillance, in addition to coordinating public health emergency responses.

To provide visitors with health prevention information, the Ministry of Health has set up the Traveler's Health page.

REPORTING – The Zika virus is present in 60 countries, including Brazil, whose population represents only 15% of the people exposed to the virus. The Ministry of Health made it obligatory to report cases of Zika in February this year. However, even before it became mandatory throughout the country, some states adopted the reporting of all suspected cases of the Zika virus, such as Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, Pernambuco and Rio Grande do Norte. This initiative demonstrates the country’s major concern regarding the prevention and control of this disease in the population.

By Amanda Mendes, from Agência Saúde

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