RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — All eyes this summer are on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, host city of the 2016 Summer Olympics. This beautiful location also brings with it concern as Brazil has become ground zero for mosquito-borne Zika virus.
Rentokil's Claudio Salem, technical director, Brazil, and branch manager, Rio de Janeiro, has witnessed the country’s mosquito challenges first-hand during the last 20 years. Salem explains why mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases are so problematic in Brazil.
It starts with sanitation issues, said Salem, noting that Culex sp thrives in urban areas of Brazil where 44% of houses do not have sewage treatment. The region’s warm temperatures and rainy conditions also provide conditions conducive for mosquitoes. “It’s more than just extreme heat and rain. In the tropical area we can say that we have summer year-round with dry and wet seasons,” he told PCT.
Another problem, Salem says, is “the lack of regular water supply in at least 17% of Brazilian houses” which forces people to store water in tanks. “Sixty-three percent of the Brazilian cities do not have proper destinations for solid residues — that can easily become points of Aedes sp breeding,” he said.
How do these conditions contribute to the potential spread of mosquito-borne diseases? “One example is that 88% of the Brazilian slums (which don’t have a constant water supply as well as sewage collection) are in cities with more than 1 million people (the most important cities in Brazil) where the density can be up to 13,000 people per square-kilometer. This is likely a perfect scenario for an epidemic dispersion, don’t you think?”
These and other challenges are not overnight fixes for Brazil, but when it comes to Zika and the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Salem thinks the risk is minimal because Aedes mosquitoes, the species that transmits Zika, is a manageable problem in Rio, he says. “With Aedes, this particular year had nothing different from the previous ones, except for the Zika virus event. To keep small areas like the stadiums without Aedes for three months in the winter should not be a problem or a concern.”
For this and other reasons, Salem said people should still consider visiting Rio for the Olympic games. “Rio is a unique experience. Participating in an Olympic event is certainly amazing, and life is just a one-way road. So, I think it is worth it to come down here and enjoy the party. This will be in one of the cooler winters in Rio. The health authorities are doing their job. So, keep your repellent with you and enjoy the party. The real risk is low and certainly it is worth it. Rio de Janeiro people are full of energy and happiness for this event.”