World Health discounts zika risk in large gatherings

The World Surfing Games in Jacó got a boost Tuesday when the World Health Organization said that large gatherings do not mean a greater risk of zika virus transmission.

The U.N.’s health agency was reporting mainly about this summer’s Olympic Games in Brazil, but Jacó business leaders were concerned that the surfing games in August would be canceled if the Olympics were, too.

World Health’s emergency committee on the zika virus met Tuesday to consider the possible risks to mass gatherings in countries and cities with a zika outbreak, including Rio de Janeiro.

“Individual risks in areas of transmission are the same whether or not a mass gathering is conducted, and can be minimized by good public health measures,” the committee said.

At last count, Jacó has 63 reported cases of zika of the country’s 98, although many persons with light cases of zika or those with no symptoms probably number much more. A new report is due later today.

The surfing event in Jaco is taking place from Aug. 6 to 14.  Area business leaders are expecting $38 million in income from visitors to the event. But they have been concerned that the games might be canceled due to the zika outbreak.Brazil, of course, has thousands of reported cases.

The U.N. agency said there is only a very low risk that the Olympic Games in August and the Paralympic Games in September might result in spreading zika internationally.

The games are taking place during winter in Brazil, when the spread of such viruses is minimal. World Health also noted that Brazilian authorities are stepping up their mosquito-control measures.

The zika committee reaffirmed previous recommendations that pregnant women should not travel to areas with a virus outbreak, and that while they are pregnant they should either abstain from sex or practice only safe sex with partners who do travel to zika-infected areas.

More than 100 doctors called on the World Health Organization last month to either postpone the Summer Games or move them to a different venue.

Zika is responsible for microcephaly, a severe birth defect in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and possible developmental problems. It is spread by mosquitoes, and Brazil has been at the heart of Latin America’s zika outbreak.surfing061516

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