You’ve probably heard about the Zika virus, a disease that has been around for years, but is getting attention during this summer season in South America, partly because of the Olympic games that will be held in Brazil. Zika is transmitted by mosquito bite, and is not considered to be contagious from people who have the disease. The common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, but only one in five people infected with the virus will show symptoms. The biggest danger appears to be birth defects in pregnant women, whose babies might be born with microcephaly—a smaller-than-normal head at birth, which can cause development delays.
Should you avoid Brazil and the Olympics this year? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has issued Zika-related travel alerts for 28 countries, including all Central American countries south of Mexico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean islands, and the South American nations of Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Bolivia, Paraguay and, yes, Brazil. Only Chile, Argentina and Uruguay seem to be unaffected.
An estimated 1.5 million people have so far been infected with the Zika virus, which has no known cure or vaccine, but is also not considered deadly. Brazilian authorities are currently advising Olympic athletes who compete in the games, starting August 5, to shut their windows and smother themselves with insect repellant. They’re also seeking and destroying any stagnant water pools near Olympic venues, to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds, and workers in protective suits have been videoed spraying insecticide into the air in Brazilian cities. Don’t be surprised if you turn on the TV in August and see stadiums full of spectators wearing long sleeves and pants—and a few empty seats.
About the Author: Bob Veres has been a commentator, author and consultant in the financial services industry for more than 20 years. Over his 20-year career in the financial services world, Mr. Veres has worked as editor of Financial Planning magazine; as a contributing editor to the Journal of Financial Planning; as a columnist and editor-at-large of Dow Jones Investment Advisor magazine; and as editor of Morningstar’s advisor web site: MorningstarAdvisor.com.
Mr. Veres has been named one of the most influential people in the financial planning profession by Investment Advisor magazine and Financial Planning magazine, was granted the NAPFA Special Achievement Award by the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, and most recently the Heart of Financial Planning Distinguished Service Award from the Denver-based Financial Planning Association.
The spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus has become a world-wide concern, with the World Health Organization declaring it global health emergency on Monday. This is the first time the agency has used that classification since the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Olympic organisers have insisted that the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro this August will not be affected by the outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil, but also warned athletes and visitors to smother themselves in mosquito repellent to minimise the risks.