The time when Zika scares did not originate in a presidential campaign

The deadly Zika virus has caused three major outbreaks in South America’s largest city. How will the city deal with the recent outbreak?

“In plain English, we are going to work around the clock to get Zika vaccines ready for the public,” according to doctor Carlos Nascimento, mayor of Brasilia.

While Nascimento knows Brasilia is in a prime location for this, he is apparently worried that his community will follow the same path the rest of the city has taken: “Even when we finish the vaccine, we will also create another outbreak so people will continue to wear nets and cover their bodies and keep washing their hands.”

These were a few highlights in a flurry of messages from Aedes-aegypti spreader testimonies from around the world. All have one thing in common, however: Mayors are not only ill prepared for the virus, they are also fearful that it is going to spread to the rest of the country. If it did, people would not be able to swim in the city’s lakes.

Keen to keep tourists (and their money) happy, the IOC is looking at three South American cities – Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro – for the 2020 Olympics. Yes, Rio de Janeiro is a hot spot, with a population of 25 million. But for Brazil that doesn’t come at a price. It has one of the most extreme examples of devastation.

The Zika virus has forced the city to cut into its prime piece of real estate: the beach. For those who aren’t living in sweltering Rio, the images of thousands of troops clearing the beaches and members of the police receiving medical treatment on the beach seem a bit sinister. Luckily, Rio’s beaches are not just the only beautiful spot in the city; it’s a central part of its culture. So should Brazil turn her back on this cultural home?

“The beaches are already part of the city’s culture, there is an association for the arts and music and so on,” says Dr Jason DeHaan, a public health professor from George Washington University who has studied Rio’s strategy in combating Zika and its economic dependence on tourism. He doesn’t think that turning the beaches into a massive cocoon is in the city’s best interest.

“For the group of tourists who want to escape from the widespread climate change impacting the world now, the beaches, the white beaches [are] a very accessible option.”

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