Traveling to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro poses no significant risk of importing the Zika virus, except for citizens of four African nations, according to a report released Wednesday by U.S. health authorities.
“Except for these four countries, the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games do not pose a unique or significant risk for further mosquito-borne transmissions of Zika virus in excess of that posed by non-Olympic travel,” the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, or CDC, report said.
The four African countries are Chat, Djibouti, Yemen and Eritrea.
The “unique” risk of their athletes being bitten by a Zika-carrying mosquito, importing the virus and thus causing an epidemic is deemed to be significant because these nations don’t have substantial numbers of travelers ferrying back and forth between any of the countries where the virus is prevalent, most of them in Latin America.
“Compared with all travel to Zika-endemic areas, the Olympics account for about one-tenth of 1 percent of travel from the U.S. and globally about one-quarter of 1 percent, so even if Olympics didn’t exist, 99.75 percent would be the same risk,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in addressing the report.
He also told reporters that there was not a large “public health reason to delay or change the games.”
The aim of the CDC study, published a few weeks before the Games are slated to begin on Aug. 5, was to make a prediction that countries could be susceptible to having the virus begin circulating in their territory if introduced by a single person who picked it up at the Rio Games.
The four African nations mentioned will have 19 percent more flight volume in August compared with passenger traffic with countries where the virus is circulating.
These four nations are being represented in Rio by a total of 19 athletes and 60 other members of the sports delegations, which the study says is just a miniscule fraction of the 350,000 to 500,000 people expected to attend the Games.
The Olympics are scheduled to run in Brazil from Aug. 5-21 and the Paralympic Games are set to run from Sept. 7-18.