Miller School Researchers Helped Monitor for Zika During Rio Olympic Games

News & Research

By Miller School of Medicine News

Public health officials reported no cases of Zika virus infection in Rio de Janeiro during the 2016 Summer Olympics, according to a University of Miami Miller School of Medicine researcher who participated in the on-site observation and analysis process.

From left, Alexandre Chieppe, M.D., Director, State of Rio de Janeiro Health Surveillance, Aileen Marty, M.D., Florida International University, Ximena Marincic Sanchez, M.P.H., and Silvia Carvalho, Coordinator, State of Rio de Janeiro Health Surveillance

From left, Alexandre Chieppe, M.D., Director, State of Rio de Janeiro Health Surveillance, Aileen Marty, M.D., Florida International University, Ximena Marincic Sanchez, M.P.H., and Silvia Carvalho, Coordinator, State of Rio de Janeiro Health Surveillance

“The level of mosquito activity was low during Rio’s winter season, and both athletes and visitors took precautions to reduce their risks,” said Ximena Marincic Sanchez, M.P.H., senior clinical research coordinator at the Miller School’s International Medicine Institute. “Public health surveillance teams from the city and state of Rio de Janeiro monitored the Zika situation 24/7 throughout the Olympics from the city’s operations center.”

A native of Uruguay who speaks Portuguese and Spanish, Marincic Sanchez was invited to join Rio’s Zika surveillance team for the Olympic Games, held August 5 to 21. She had completed an internship with the city’s Department of Health during the 2014 World Cup while studying for her master of public health degree.

“This was a great opportunity for me to assist with the collection of data, suggest ideas and observe the implementation of the communicable disease protocols,” she said.

Twice a day, Rio’s public health authorities received reports from the city’s hospitals and clinics on all types of cases, with particular attention given to patients with possible Zika symptoms such as skin rashes, fever, joint pain and red eyes. Blood tests were given to those patients, and the results were negative in all cases reported to the operations center.

However, Marincic Sanchez noted that it may take several weeks for the results to be received from some Zika tests. Also, an estimated 80 percent of individuals infected by the Zika virus have no apparent symptoms, so it is possible that some cases were not detected. She added that public health data is not yet available for several Olympic events, such as soccer matches, that were held in other areas of Brazil.

“From a public health perspective, the outcome in Rio was very positive,” Marincic Sanchez said. “The surveillance team worked very hard following the public health protocols in trying to detect any outbreaks, and Rio could provide a model for special events in the future.”

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