Zika mosquitoes not guaranteed to lie low for Rio Olympics

Tue Feb 9, 2016 12:12pm EST
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By Paulo Prada

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Alarmed by the growing global scare about the spread of the Zika virus, Brazilian officials and Olympic organizers are telling would-be visitors to the Games to fear not.

The month of August, when Rio de Janeiro will host the Olympics, is mid-winter in the southern hemisphere so the weather will be drier and cooler than usual in the tropical city, providing a less hospitable climate for the mosquito that spreads the virus.

"There's not a history of much activity for the mosquito at that time," Rio's mayor, Eduardo Paes, recently told reporters.

But it's not that simple, scientists say.

True, rainfall and temperatures for the month are generally below the annual average.

But, even if less active than in warmer months, the mosquito, Aedes aegypti, never actually disappears.

Its eggs, which can lay idle for more than a year, can hatch in a matter of minutes with any quick surge in humidity or heat, which have been common in recent years, even in the tropical winter.

A Reuters review of municipal health records shows that mosquito-borne infections in August of some years can be as bad or worse than in the usual peak months for infections in others.   Continued...

The logos of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games are pictured next to a message on a screen that reads "Message about Zika" during a media briefing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, February 2, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes