Carl Lowenberger, a professor of entomology and parasitology and expert in mosquito-borne disease, cautions that the Zika virus—and other mosquito-borne diseases such as Chikungunya and dengue fever—are of serious concern as Rio de Janeiro welcomes tens of thousands to the 2016 Olympic Games this August.
The Zika virus in particular has been linked to a severe birth defect in babies called microcephaly should a woman become infected while pregnant. As of yet, there is no way to prevent or treat the virus.
Since May 2015, the Zika virus has been reported in Mexico, the Caribbean and several South and Central American countries. In that time, Brazil has diagnosed nearly 4,000 newborns with microcephaly.
“Although the mosquito population will go down significantly in the cooler July to August months, the Zika virus will still have an impact on visitors. Other tropical diseases like dengue fever and Chikungunya will also have an impact,” says Lowenberger.
Lowenberger says that while he expects that public health officials will fumigate and treat the Olympic venues with the appropriate steps, the viruses are likely to still impact some visitors.
“These viruses are impossible to completely avoid and some visitors will be affected,” he says.