IOC to issue Zika guidance as virus spreads before Rio Games

Thu Jan 28, 2016 3:12pm EST
 
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By Karolos Grohmann and Stephen Eisenhammer

ATHENS/RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee will issue guidelines this week aimed at protecting athletes and visitors from Zika, a mosquito-borne virus spreading rapidly across South America months before the Rio de Janeiro Games in August.

IOC President Thomas Bach said on Thursday a note would be sent to National Olympic Committees (NOCs) "today or tomorrow at the latest," as Rio prepares to host the world's biggest sporting event on South American soil for the first time.

"We will do everything to ensure the health of the athletes and all the visitors," Bach told reporters during a visit to Athens.

"We are in close contact with the World Health Organisation (WHO) as well as with the organizing committee and the Brazilian authorities."

The WHO warned on Thursday that the disease, linked to birth defects in thousands of babies, was spreading "explosively" and could affect as many as four million people in the Americas.

Zika has been clinically linked to a foetal deformation known as microcephaly, in which infants are born with abnormally small heads and brains.

The virus, a close cousin of dengue and chikungunya, causes rash, mild fever and red eyes. Some 80 percent of those infected typically do not have symptoms, making it difficult for pregnant women to determine if they have the virus. No vaccine or treatment is currently available.

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International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach leaves after a news conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, December 10, 2015. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse -