For the past week I have been traveling in Uganda…home to many things including the Zika virus. (Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 and is named after the Zika Forest in Uganda.) The story in the western hemisphere continues to unfold and no doubt Zika will still be a major issue for months to come and when the games happen. The WHO has urged athletes and travelers planning to attend the Olympics in Brazil, the epicenter of the Zika epidemic, to take a series of steps to guard against infection, but the agency made it clear that it was not calling for the Summer Games in August to be canceled or postponed.
WHO’s Zika Guidelines follows most of the current advice from public health authorities about Zika, although its recommendations for protecting against sexual transmission of the virus differ slightly from those of the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The W.H.O. statement said that travelers should use condoms or abstain from sex during their stay and for at least four weeks after returning from a region within the epidemic zone; the C.D.C. suggests abstaining for eight weeks after returning. The CDC also has come out to recommend that urine testing be done for those concerned about being exposed to the Zika virus.
The Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes species mosquito. For most people it causes a mild illness, but Zika has been linked to brain damage in babies born to mothers who were infected with Zika during their pregnancy and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS).