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Olympics will be a success, says Simons

Still going: Wollmann has admitted having concerns about contaminated water in Rio

Judy Simons, the Bermuda Olympic Association president, believes the Olympic Games in Rio will be a success despite health concerns stemming from the outbreak of the Zika virus and contaminated water in Rio.

“There are several issues within Rio itself,” Simons said. “But I know the International Olympic Committee are working very closely with the organising committee for the Rio team.

“I don’t doubt they are going to be good Olympics and at the end of the day I think our athletes will be fine and will do this country extremely proud.”

The Zika virus is a member of the virus family Flaviviridae and the genus Flavivirus, transmitted by daytime-active Aedes mosquitoes, such as A. aegypti.

The symptoms of the Zika virus are mild and include a flu-like illness with fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. However, for pregnant women infected with this virus, it has been linked with babies that are born with small heads and underdeveloped brains, a condition called microcephaly.

Several cases of the disease have appeared in the United States in recent weeks, with Rick Scott, the Florida governor, declaring a state of emergency in five counties in the state. While mosquitoes are the primary source of the virus, that are growing fears it could also be sexually transmitted.

The virus was first reported in Brazil last May and since then government officials believe that more than 1 million people have been infected in that country.

The World Health Organisation this week declared the outbreak a global health emergency, noting its rapid spread through the Americas and clusters of microcephaly and other neurological disorders which are believed to be linked to the virus.

Despite the spread of the virus, Brazil has said this August’s Olympics will go ahead with authorities stating that only pregnant woman are threatened by the outbreak. The country has launched a drive to eradicate potential mosquito breeding sites, deploying more than 200,000 soldiers to assist in the effort.

Along with Zika virus, Olympic organisers have been confronted with sewage-infested waters at the venue for the Olympic sailing regatta where Bermuda’s Ceci Wollmann will compete in the women’s Laser Radial.

Greater Rio has a population of some ten million people and millions of litres of untreated sewage are dumped in the bay every day.

Last July, the AP reported that its first round of tests showed disease-causing viruses directly linked to human sewage at levels up to 1.7 million times what would be considered highly alarming in the United States or Europe. Experts said athletes were competing in the viral equivalent of raw sewage and exposure to dangerous health risks almost certain.

The results sent shock waves through the global athletic community, with sports officials pledging to do their own viral testing to ensure the waters were safe for competition in next year’s Olympics.

Those promises took on further urgency in August, after pre-Olympic rowing and sailing events in Rio led to illnesses among athletes nearly double the acceptable limit in the US for swimmers in recreational waters.

Olympic organisers dismissed concerns about water pollution in the Guanabara Bay where sailing events will be held, pointing to recent tests showing that the waters in the bay meet international standards.

Wollmann has voiced her concerns over the water pollution and outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil.

“I haven’t gone to Rio yet but some of my friends have been down there and said sometimes it’s not as bad as they’ve been saying,” she said. “But some countries have been saying it’s really bad down there, so I will see when I go down there. I will take some vitamins and hope for the best.”