Daily Video

June 17, 2016

Zika virus shadow looms over summer Olympics in Rio

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Essential question

What is a government’s role in protecting people from public health threats?


Concern surrounding Zika virus has taken center stage in Brazil, as local organizers of the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympic Games assure the world that the country is safe for athletes and tourists.

Several Olympic athletes have decided not to attend the games because the Zika virus has been shown to cause illness as well as birth defects for some babies born to infected mothers.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the trip is safe to make but encourages tourists and participants traveling to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August for the Olympics to follow a series of guidelines. Not all medical professionals agree, however. Recently, 234 scientists and global health experts wrote a letter to the WHO calling for the Olympic Games in Rio to be canceled, postponed or moved.

Some Brazilians worry that the WHO’s warnings could stigmatize struggling communities. Paulo Cesar Vieira, known as ‘Peanut,’ is a well-known community leader and tour guide in his favela of Rocinha. Vieira says he’s proud to be from Rocinha and was looking forward to showing Olympic tourists his vibrant community. He blames the international press for sensationalizing Zika and scaring tourists from coming.

At the local health clinic in Rio, Dr. Viviane Dos Santos said Zika is less of a problem now since it is currently winter in the Southern Hemisphere. Eradication measures, including spraying and daily mosquito inspections, continue to take place across the city.


Key terms

Zika virus — a disease-causing virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes causing symptoms such as mild fever, skin rash or muscle and joint pain; there is scientific consensus that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome

favela — a low-income community lying within urban areas of a Brazilian city

epidemic — a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time

Warm up questions (before watching the video)
  1. Where will the 2016 Summer Olympics take place?
  2. What do you know about Zika virus?
  3. How do mosquitoes threaten human health?
  4. What are some other examples of public health threats in history?
Critical thinking questions (after watching the video)
  1. Why is there concern that tourists traveling to Brazil for the Summer 2016 Olympic games could further the Zika virus’ spread?
  2. Do you think enough is being done to protect people attending the Olympics from Zika virus? Why or why not?
  3. If you had the opportunity, would you attend this year’s Olympic Games? Why or why not?
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