Rio de Janeiro
Getty Images

Rio Olympics unlikely to have major impact on Zika spread, CDC says

Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) — The Rio Olympics are not likely to have a major impact on the spread of Zika virus, although four developing countries could face a substantially higher risk, according to a new government estimate.

U.S. researchers tried to calculate whether the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, which is in the midst of a Zika epidemic, will lead to outbreaks that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. The danger is that infected travelers might be bitten by mosquitoes after return to their home nations, which would potentially spread Zika to other people and spark an outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 19 countries that currently do not have Zika have the right conditions for outbreaks if it is imported by people returning from the Olympics. But in only four of the 19 countries is the issue considered substantial: Yemen, at the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula, and Chad, Djibouti and Eritrea in Africa.

CDC researchers made their predictions based on a range of factors, including air travel patterns between Brazil and other countries and the presence of a tropical mosquito that is the main way Zika spreads to people.

The four nations at greatest risk from the Olympics generally have no or very few travelers to Zika outbreak countries. Only a dozen to several dozen people are expected to travel to the Rio games from each of these countries, but those small numbers represent a notable jump from regular traffic volume to outbreak countries, said the CDC’s Dr. Martin Cetron, one of the authors of the report.

That doesn’t mean health officials are predicting outbreaks in those four countries, Cetron added.

The Olympics are happening at a colder time of year in Rio, when mosquito activity is at a minimum. If people take precautions against mosquito bites, these four countries could be spared Olympics-related outbreaks, he said.

The Olympics and Paralympics are expected to draw an estimated 350,000 to 500,000 international visitors and athletes from 207 countries. But health officials say that travel this year will account for less than 1 percent of international travel to Zika outbreak countries.

Last month, the World Health Organization rejected calls by some to cancel the summer Olympics, saying there is a “very low risk” the Olympics will accelerate the spread of Zika around the world.

The new CDC report seems to confirm that assessment, said Justin Lessler, a Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist who focuses on computational approaches to predict the spread of disease.

“I think the most important result highlighted in this paper is how insignificant the additional risk of global Zika transmission caused by the Olympics is,” Lessler said, in an email.

Earlier this year, the WHO declared Zika a global emergency after seeing an epidemic spreading through Latin America and the Caribbean.

In most cases, Zika infections cause, at worst, mild symptoms that disappear within a week. But the WHO declaration was driven by a link between infections in pregnant women and the development of severe brain-related birth defects in their fetuses.

Health officials have advised pregnant women to avoid travel to Zika outbreak countries, including Brazil while the Olympics are taking place.

Zika can also be spread through sex, and health officials are advising condom use and other precautions for travelers.

MORE: Rio Olympic Committee: Zika not among top 10 concerns

Allyson Felix named to US 4×400 relay pool for worlds

AP Photo
Leave a comment

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Decorated U.S. sprinter Allyson Felix will be part of the 4×400 relay pool for the world championships as she rounds into elite form after giving birth.

The American squad bound for the world championships in Doha, Qatar, was announced Monday by USA Track & Field. It includes eight reigning world champions and 55 Olympians. The championships run Sept. 27 to Oct. 6 at the air-conditioned Khalifa Stadium. That will come in handy with the temperatures during the event expected to hover around 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius).

An 11-time world champion, Felix won’t compete in an individual event after finishing sixth in the 400 at the U.S. championships two months ago. Her performance earned her a place in the 4×400 relay pool as the Americans try to defend their title. The 33-year-old Felix’s race at nationals was her first since giving birth to her daughter last November during an emergency C-section.

Felix’s aim is to be back in top form for the Tokyo Games next summer.

The list of Americans trying to defend their world titles in Doha include Justin Gatlin (100), Tori Bowie (100), Phyllis Francis (400), Kori Carter (400 hurdles), Christian Taylor (triple jump) , Brittney Reese (long jump), Sam Kendricks (pole vault) and Emma Coburn (steeplechase).

One of the most anticipated races at worlds will be the 200 meters, featuring a showdown between Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles in what could be a sneak peek ahead to the Tokyo Olympics. Coleman, who’s also a favorite in the 100, is eligible for worlds and next year’s Olympics after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency dropped his case for missed tests due to a technicality.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

South African sprinter Carina Horn fails doping test

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MONACO (AP) One of Africa’s fastest female sprinters, Carina Horn, has been suspended for failing a doping test.

The Athletics Integrity Unit, which oversees doping cases in track and field, says the South African is provisionally suspended after testing positive for the banned substances ibutamoren and ligandrol. Both substances can develop muscles with a similar effect to anabolic steroids and have been used by bodybuilders.

No date has been set for a hearing.

Horn won silver in the 100 meters and gold in the 4×100 relay at the African championships in 2016.

Her personal best of 10.98 seconds for the 100 is the South African record. Her best time this season of 11.01 is well inside the qualifying standard for the upcoming world championships.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports