Remember the statistic I quoted earlier about Americans who believe the Olympics should be cancelled? It was like three sentences ago. Humor me and pretend you read the intro. Anyway, the people questioned in that survey were expressing their concerns about just one issue: the Zika virus.
It's kind of difficult to grasp how much of a problem Zika already is and could be in the future, because it's not one of those Hollywood movie plagues which cause people to bleed from the eyes and discharge their liquefied innards through their already-overworked orifices. In adults, the symptoms are similar to a mild version of dengue fever, if there are any symptoms at all.
However, pregnant women who become infected can spread it to their fetus, at which point the impact of the disease becomes way more noticeable. The standout performer in the arsenal of brain defects and issues it leads to is microcephaly, in which the brain stops developing in the womb. Since the brain isn't growing, the skull just kind of collapses around it, leaving your kid with a head that's approximately half the size of a normal head.
A small price to pay for getting Usain Bolt's autograph.
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.