Brazil is trying to relieve travelers’ fears about the Zika virus in anticipation of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this August, after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global public health emergency tied to the mosquito-borne disease.
The virus, currently tearing through Latin America, has been linked to cases of birth defects and is suspected to have worse effects in pregnant women.
But Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff’s administration is insisting the Olympics will carry on as scheduled, and that Brazil is a safe destination for travelers, with the exception of expecting mothers.
“We have to explain to those coming to Brazil, the athletes, that there is zero risk if you are not a pregnant woman,” Rousseff’s chief of staff, Jaques Wagner, told the press, according to a report from Reuters.
Meanwhile, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach reminded the public that while Rio is hosting the Summer Olympics, the games actually will be taking place during Brazil’s winter season, and “this is not the preferred breeding time for mosquitoes.”
The Zika virus is the fourth disease that the WHO has ever declared an international public health emergency, but it has yet to prompt any official travel bans to Brazil or elsewhere in Latin America. As medical experts race to find a vaccine for the disease, the Brazilian government has been working to destroy breeding grounds for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the disease.