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There has been much discussion about the Zika virus in Brazil and the possible impact of the virus on the Summer Olympics of 2016. The Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC)’s representative team of Annette Knott, Secretary General and Dr. Ian Hypolite, Chef de Mission recently visited three locations in Brazil to assess the Zika situation and review potential training sites for the national team. These included the north-east coastal town of Recife in the state of Pernambuco, Juiz de Fora in the state of Minas and Rio de Janeiro, the capital and site of the Games.

The TTOC wishes to advise that in each location the response mechanisms for the Zika outbreak was clear and operational. The coastal town of Recife can be described as “ground zero” for the Zika outbreak in Brazil. As a result, Recife is at the forefront in the battle against the virus. The real concern about the virus relates directly to its impact on pregnant women. Reports have suggested a link, still casual, between the virus and microcephaly in newborns. The TTOC team noted that there was no sense of panic among the Brazilian populace, which has already experienced dengue and chikungunya. Illnesses which are spread by the same mosquito vector.

Preventive methods such as vector eradication, use of repellent, and appropriate attire, were constantly emphasized. These recommendations are globally applicable given the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) declaration of an international public health emergency. It therefore means that people everywhere have to be wary about the spread of the Zika virus in their own countries. Yesterday, the Ministry of Health confirmed the first case of Zika here in Trinidad and Tobago.

At this time it is noteworthy that the WHO has not recommended travel or trade bans with affected countries, and has stressed that there is still a lot to learn about the virus. Given its recent experience in Brazil, the TTOC’s representative team accepts fully the recommendations of the WHO on the International Zika outbreak.