Brazilian officials said there is no chance August’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will be called off because of the Zika virus currently spreading in Latin America.
Brazil has been one of the countries hardest hit by the virus, which has caused 4,000 cases of microcephaly since October, BBC reported. Microcephaly is passed on to babies by pregnant women infected by Zika. It results in the brains of infants being underdeveloped.
Brazil was the country where the outbreak started, but at least 20 states in the Americas have now reported cases of the mosquito-borne virus.
“We have to explain to those coming to Brazil, the athletes, that there is zero risk if you are not a pregnant woman,” Jacques Wagner, chief of staff to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, said, according to BBC.
His comments came shortly after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global health emergency due to the Zika virus.
The Brazilian government has introduced special measures to combat Zika. Rousseff granted health and sanitary inspectors the right to use force to enter properties in their efforts to eliminate mosquito populations.
Over 200,000 troops have been deployed to conduct inspections, and police can also be called in by inspectors if required. According to the country’s health ministry, 25 percent of Brazil’s 49 million households have been inspected.
Olympic athletes have spoken out about their concerns.
“It is definitely a concern,” George Boville, a swimmer and bronze medal winner from Trinidad and Tobago, told ABC. “By the time of the Olympic Games, it should be rampant.”
The New Zealand Olympic Committee and the Australian Olympic Team Committee have told athletes to take protective measures against Zika.
The New Zealand committee said that in line with government directives, “expectant mothers or those planning pregnancy do not travel to areas with the Zika virus present,” ABC reported. The Australian Committee advised all athletes to wear long sleeves to avoid mosquito bites.
The U.S. Olympic Committee also released a statement saying it was “closely monitoring” the situation and maintaining contact with experts on the Zika virus.
The International Olympic Committee sent health advice to all national committees Jan. 29.
“We remain confident that there will be a safe environment for successful and enjoyable Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” its statement read.