Zagreb, 17 February 2016 – On Tuesday, February 16, 2016 the Croatian Olympic Committee's Health Commission held a meeting with representatives of the national sports federations in order to inform them on the latest news on the Zika virus and the measures to be taken in the upcoming period.

The reason for calling the meeting are numerous articles in the media, which have caused concern for many athletes and officials, contributed as well by the US Olympic Committee advising their athletes to withdraw from their participation at the Olympics in Rio in August this year due to the rapid spreading of the virus.

At the meeting, Professor PhD Boris Labar, President of the Commission, explained that Zika virus is a tropical virus of Flavivirus genus, isolated as early as in 1947, and the first major outbreaks have been reported in Micronesia in 2007 and 2013 in French Polynesia. The virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, and there have been cases of transmission from person to person. Symptoms such as fever, skin rash, pain in the small joints of hands and feet appear 2-12 days after the bite. The treatment is symptomatic and disease ends like the flu. There is no vaccine for Zika virus. Prevention in areas affected by the infection is possible, among other things, through protection against mosquito bites, removal of mosquito breeding sites and, taking into account the recent cases of transmission of the virus, by avoiding sexual contacts.

Particular attention is paid to Zika virus due to the suspicion that this virus causes complications in the pregnancy, because Brazil recorded 4,000 cases of microcephaly in newborns whose mothers were infected. Lately, the Guillain-Barre syndrome is being associated with Zika virus.

The great public interest for this virus, in particular the interest of the sports public, is quite understandable given that the World Health Organization currently treats it as an explosive epidemic in America and in the Caribbean, including Brazil, the host of the upcoming Olympic Games. Labar warns that fear created does not correspond to the actual status and that there is no reason for the athletes not to travel to the Olympic Games in Rio – of course, under obligation to undertake the adequate preventive measures.

Similar to many other national Olympic committees, the Croatian Olympic Committee will take all the necessary preventive measures through its Health Commission. It includes the recommendations to national sports federations and athletes concerning the stay in Brazil, contact with infected persons and pregnancy. Specific recommendations will be issued concerning the stay in Brazil during the Olympic Games, and Professor PhD Davorka Lukas, Head of the Referral Center of the Ministry of Health of Republic of Croatia for Tropical Medicine and Disease in Travellers. (hoo(msč)