Author: elisabeth sahlmueller – contributor
In all honesty, I have never been someone who watches a lot of sports. However, the Olympic Games are an exception to this, since I make an effort to watch at least some events, even if it’s just a recap of the highlights at the end of the day. The Olympics may each have its own set of scandals and low points, but their value is so much more than that. They are about countries coming together, teamwork, sportsmanship, and hard work. Unfortunately, the 2016 Summer Olympics set to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this August, face a new dilemma, because Brazil has recently been hit hard by the Zika virus. Although Brazil’s government and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) remain convinced that the Olympics will continue despite the widespread of the virus, I strongly believe that the games should be cancelled, or moved somewhere else, so that people’s health is not at risk in such a dangerous environment.
The Zika virus is transmitted through the bite of an Aedes Aegypti Mosquito. Although the virus was first discovered in 1947 in a monkey from Uganda’s Zika Forest, it has only recently become extremely widespread throughout tropical areas in South America. However, unlike the typical mosquito bites we get in the summer, the bite from the Aedes Aegypti Mosquito is proven to have a devastating effect on pregnant women because it creates high levels of Microcephaly in babies. This substance causes multiple learning disabilities for babies, as well as the possibility of being born with a very small head. Brazil is trying to deal with this situation, but is having a hard time, as there have been 3,700 cases of Microcephaly in the country alone.
Despite the World Health Organization declaring the situation in Brazil a “major global emergency,” the country’s government has decided there is no need to cancel the Olympics, or give up their privilege of being the host country. Brazil is confident that all these problems will be cleared up by the time the Olympics begin in six months. City workers have been spraying insecticide at potential mosquito breeding grounds throughout the city and people have been advised to apply mosquito repellent and wear pants and long-sleeved shirts. However, I don’t believe Brazil should remain the host country for this year’s Summer Olympics.
This virus is a major health risk not only to pregnant women, but to other citizens, as well. One of the main problems is that 80 per cent of people who contract it don’t show any symptoms. This is especially dangerous because researchers have realized that the virus can be spread through sex. As a result, people who don’t realize they have the disease can quickly spread it to their partner, which makes the virus hard to contain. Also, there is no cure for the virus and although there is research going into making a vaccine, the development could take 10 – 15 years.
I understand the frustration of athletes who have trained for an event for years and now by participating, they are putting their health at risk. Some Olympic athletes have spoken up about the situation, including American Gold Medalist at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Games, Mel Stewart, who stated, “A gold medal is not worth jeopardizing your health.” I agree. In a situation as serious as this, the health of individuals, or someone they care about, should be a lot more important than any medal.
This year’s summer Olympics marks the first time a South American country has hosted the games, a privilege won back in October 2009. It’s understandable that Brazil is beyond excited for this opportunity, but with 206 nations competing, the Zika Virus has an extreme risk of spreading worldwide.
I sincerely hope the situation in Brazil doesn’t escalate more than it already has and that consideration is given toward moving the games to a country that already has the arenas, or postponing them to next year. I’m a fan of the Olympics and don’t want to see them cancelled, but this is a serious health crisis. Money should be spent on healthcare rather than sporting venues. People need to ask themselves what is more important – health or prestige?