- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Olympic Games in Brazil are unlikely to spark the global spread of the Zika virus, even though up to 500,000 visitors and athletes from more than 200 countries will travel to the epicenter of the mosquito-borne outbreak next month, the Centers for Disease Control said Wednesday.

Visitors to the games from Aug. 5-21 face a low probability of infection in Rio de Janeiro because it will be the Brazilian winter, when fewer mosquitoes are out biting.

Meanwhile, travel to the Olympic Games will account for 0.25 percent of overall travel to countries affected by the disease, which is causing infants of infected mothers to be born with abnormally small heads or other birth defects.

The Zika virus is relatively new to the Western Hemisphere, particularly in Brazil, which has faced the brunt of the outbreak that surfaced in 2015.

Some athletes, including world-famous golfer Rory McIlroy, have pulled out the Olympic Games, citing Zika and its associated risks.

Yet the CDC and the World Health Organization have repeatedly argued there is no reason to cancel the Olympics, since more than 99 percent of travel to the hot zone is unrelated to the games, anyway.

Nonetheless, the CDC said four countries in northern Africa and the Red Sea region — Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea and Yemen — do face a higher risk because of their participation in the Olympic Games.

People from those countries don’t typically travel to Zika-affected countries, except for the Olympic Games, and environmental conditions in those countries make them susceptible to Zika transmission.

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