Pregnant women should not travel to Brazil for the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro in August, in order to prevent Zika virus infection, said the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC), on Friday.

Moreover, women planning to become pregnant and their partners should avoid traveling to Brazil for the Olympic and Paralympic Games that will take place in Rio de Janeiro in August and September. It is expected that the 2016 Olympics will attract more than 400,000 tourists to Brazil, where local authorities are already deploying mosquito-control plans to minimize risks of Zika transmission.

Image: Rio 2016™
Image: Rio 2016™

“CDC Recommends that pregnant women consider not traveling to the Olympics. If you have a male partner who goes to the Olympics, you may be at risk for sexual transmission,” the advisory says, according to Medical Daily.

Brazil has confirmed 580 cases of microcephaly in infants, of which the majority may be related to Zika infection in their mothers. Microcephaly is a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected, says the CDC. Zika virus can also be sexually transmitted, explained the CDC. As a consequence, pregnant women should use condoms or refrain from sex if they are concerned

CDC arrives in Brazil

According to Brazilian authorities, Zika transmission risks should be reduced during the Olympics, since the games are going to occur during Brazil’s winter months when the weather gets colder and drier.

A team of CDC researchers has already arrived to Brazil to study the impact of Zika in the region, where epidemiologists will collect data on Brazilian women and their children since institutions such as the World Health Organization have said there could be a link between Zika and microcephaly

To study the link, the team will conduct a case-control investigation, in order to compare cases of people with Zika with similar people who has not been infected by the virus.

Zika has been confirmed in nine pregnant women in the U.S.

The CDC said Friday that two of the infected women chose to have abortions and two others suffered miscarriages. On the other hand, one woman gave birth  to an infant with brain damage, while two others are still pregnant, and two gave birth to healthy babies.

The health agency said that since August last year and early February, more than 257 women had requested Zika virus testing in the United States. Of which, 97 percent tested negative, said The Washington Post.

The majority of the scientific community seems to agree that there is a link between Zika virus and microcephaly, however, more investigation is needed to determine why the risks of Zika are higher at specific points of pregnancy, said the CDC director Tom Frieden on Friday.

“There are many things we wish we knew and are working hard to find out. This is an extraordinarily unusual occurrence. Part of science is uncovering information step by step, trying to be sure not to overstate what the data shows,” Frieden said, as quoted by The Washington Post.

The United States has confirmed 147 Zika cases, most of them related to people who traveled affected areas.

Source: Reuters