The Zika virus needs three things to be in place before it can truly take hold in any given area: the Aedes aegypti mosquito, crowded human dwellings, and poverty. The Olympics are in Brazil this year. If you're even sort of familiar with that place, you already know that two of those three things are so common there that they might as well be on the flag (along with guns and beautiful people). It won't surprise you at all to know they do, in fact, have the necessary mosquitoes as well. As a result, the CDC slapped a level 2 alert on the country to warn travelers about Zika. What does that mean? I don't know, but it's worse than level 1, and level 3 means you just shouldn't go there at all, so it's not great. And that's without thousands of people from all around the world converging on Rio at the exact same time.
Last month, 150 doctors signed a letter urging the World Health Organization to postpone or cancel the games. The WHO responded by releasing a statement meant to reassure us that the threat of Zika spreading during the Olympics was slim, because mosquito activity in Brazil is usually on the decline by August.
If that doesn't do much to make you feel better about it, you're not alone. Several scientists have already come forward to point out that what the WHO is saying is based, at least in part, on the idea that the weather will be cooler and less rainy in August. Mosquito eggs don't die; they just go dormant when the weather gets cold. However, that literally changes with the weather. Any sudden rise in heat or humidity, and those eggs will hatch. But hey, the weather's been pretty easy to predict lately, right?
Also, it's worth noting that the WHO is the same organization that accepted cash from food companies like Coca-Cola and Nestle in exchange for those companies having a say in how we fight obesity and diabetes in the United States. That's like letting drug cartels have a say in how to keep cocaine from entering the country. Call me crazy, but I think I trust those 150 doctors a little more than the WHO.
Even if the Zika virus doesn't become a pandemic as a result of the Olympics, it's still a pretty safe bet that at least some of the athletes brave enough to participate will get sick, because of ...