On a cheery, bright afternoon, almost a decade ago, Brazilians flooded Copacabana Beach to celebrate the announcement from the International Olympic Committee that Rio de Janeiro would host the 2016 Summer Olympics. In the decade that Brazil has acquired the games, the country has become embroiled in all sorts of controversy– political turmoil, economic downturns, and an unforeseen public health crisis tied to infectious diseases, Zika Virus and MRSA. This has both games participants and fans concerned.
By the end of 2015, the Zika virus, a mosquito-born disease, was tormenting the country and now has bedeviled the Olympics. The Zika virus has been linked to microcephaly, a brain defect in fetuses — found in babies born to mothers who are carrying the disease. Eighty percent of carriers show no signs of the disease. Initially, health experts believed the Zika mosquito virus would have very little impact on the games, which would bring fans, competitors, and attention from all over the globe to the country.
The Brazilian government dispatched military and health professionals to rid Rio and the adjacent region of mosquitoes, and guaranteed that athletes and fans wouldn’t face much risk of exposure in Rio. But that has morphed into something that is very close to panic in the past few weeks, most notably when University of Ottawa public health expert Amir Attaran urged Olympic officials to suspend or relocate the games , lest they risk spreading the mosquito-borne disease around the world. Some Olympic competitors have previously pledged that they will quarantine themselves at the Olympics. Others claim they considered not going and possibly missing out on the chance of a lifetime.
While cancellation wasn’t a real possibility, health officials remain divided on exactly how major the mosquito-born disease really is. Despite acknowledging Attaran’s findings, both the United Nations and World Health Organization felt the virus would not have a major impact on the games themselves. The International Olympic Committee and a number of Olympic Federations made extensive provisions to keep their athletes and fans safe. Additionally, the World Health Organization implemented measures to slash the population of the pesky insects. They also provided people with measures to safeguard themselves from the little blood drinkers while in Brazil.
With Zika Under Control, Have Officials Done Everything To Prevent MRSA?
If mosquito born diseases were only the tip of the iceberg, airborne pathogens are what lie beneath the water. The health-related issues in Rio began in 2014, but gained attention in the middle of 2015 when Erik Heil, a German sailor contracted the potentially fatal flesh-eating bacteria, MRSA. Following that, several other athletes contracted similar illnesses after participating in test events in the same contaminated waters and have undergone MRSA treatments. The airborne pathogen has a 100 percent infection rate if exposed to contaminated waters for an hour without protective gear. There is no MRSA cure, but it is treated with a combination of antibiotics.
Only six weeks ago, only one of the six promised treatment plants had been built to handle the raw sewage and trash that pollutes Guanabara Bay and the ocean waters that wash up on the beaches of Rio. Attempts to kill MRSA exposure were more for show, it appeared. The fact is, the waters that the world’s top athletes must compete in is rampant with off-the-charts virus levels. According to the Associated Press, tests indicated that disease-causing viruses that are a direct result of human sewage reached levels more than 1.7 million times of what is labeled as “highly alarming” according to United States’ standards. Discussions of decontamination seemed to be simple reactive talk to say what people wanted to hear. Infection is considered a certainty when exposed to such fetid waters without protection. MRSA is also considered an airborne disease as it can be spread through the respiratory or nasal tracts.
Simply put, Brazil never made good on their promise to clean up. The waters still remained brimming with not only raw sewage, but dead fish and garbage. Participants in rowing, sailing, and canoeing competitions are particularly likely to be exposed to the MRSA virus. Despite the negative and alarming test results, Olympic Committee officials refused to agree to relocate to a cleaner venue.
As far as the housing situation in the Olympic Village in Rio, it has been concluded to be “a total mess,” reports Huffington Post. For example, team Australia refused to move in, stating that the rooms were “unfit for habitation.” Blocked toilets, exposed wiring, inadequately lit stairwells, and filthy floor were among the complaints. In addition, smoke alarms were found to be disconnected, the Czech dorms were flooded, and a gas leak was reported.
Athletes Are Taking Zika and MRSA Prevention Into Their Own Hands
According to Fortune.com, the athletes are proactive in keeping themselves healthy and contamination free. For example, Zika, which can be transmitted via sexual contact is a cause for concern, as Time Magazine states, Olympians have long been known to have “a lot of sex” during their stays in the village.  Australia’s Olympic delegation has provided their competitors with “Zika-proof” condoms, but instead of risking this, most athletes have went against the norm of history and abstained from sex due the risky spread of Zika. However, many top athletes aren’t just abstaining from sex, but from Rio altogether, including golfers Adam Scott, Rory McIlory, Vijay Singh, and many others. Despite the concern, WHO claims that the threat of a widespread outbreak of Zika during the Olympics is actually low. Nevertheless, some athletes aren’t buying it. U.S.A Women’s Soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo made waves weeks ago when she tweeted a photo of herself wearing beekeeper’s netting while holding a bottle of insect repellent, much to the ire of the people of Brazil.
— Hope Solo (@hopesolo) July 22, 2016
All-in-all the question will remain—with the years of training and preparation, are hazardous living conditions, disease-riddled waters, and mosquito-borne viruses worth it? The Olympics are on, but were officials’ so-called preventative measures prevent MRSA and protect the world’s most gifted athletes from infectious and airborne disease? This is where Advance Bio Treatment would be able to step in. Infectious disease prevention and decontamination is one of the many services we offer at ABT. We have the know-how and ability to eradicate the presence of infectious disease like MRSA, CDiff, and many other life-threatening diseases. Not only are we there after emergencies occur, we also specialize in preventing outbreaks of infectious disease. Being proactive is the key– not reactive. In the case of any emergency, Advanced Bio Treatment is here to help, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We take emergency calls and usually can be on the scene within one hour of your call. For more information regarding blood and bodily fluid cleanup, contact Advanced Bio Treatment at 800-295-1684.
- Harvard Public Health Review | Off the Podium: Why Public Health Concerns for Global Spread of Zika Virus Means That Rio de Janeiro’s 2016 Olympic Games Must Not Proceed | Link
- Business Insider | A German sailor was hospitalized with a nasty skin infection after competing in Rio’s filthy Olympic venue | Link
- New York Times | Who Is Polluting Rio’s Bay? | Link
- The Huffington Post | Sewage-Infested Waters In Rio Place Olympic Athletes At Risk | Link
- The Huffington Post | The Housing Situation At The Rio Olympics Is A Total Mess | Link
- Fortune | Olympic Athletes Are Taking Creative Measures Against Zika Virus | Link
- Time Magazine | A Brief History of Sex at the Olympics | Link