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NIH funds Zika study on US team during Rio Olympics

Engadget Engadget 6/07/2016 David Lumb
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There's a lot of excitement building for the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic events in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but also mounting anxiety around the prevalence of Zika in the South American country. The National Institute of Health (NIH) has funded a study to monitor any evidence of the virus in a subset of the US athletic team dispatched to the games. Health officials hope to learn all they can about its infection and duration, as they can do little more to protect the the athletes, coaches and staff than educate them about how best to avoid catching it.

Of the estimated 3,000 members of the US Olympic Committee (USOC) headed to Rio, the NIH hopes to get 1,000 of them to participate in the study. Since the virus often has no external symptoms, only regular testing of bodily fluids can alert doctors of infection. Zika has little known effect on adults, but babies of infected mothers often end up with brain damage from the condition microcephaly. Pregnant women (or those intending to get pregnant) have been warned away from South American areas, like Rio, with known outbreaks.

While progress has been made on experimental vaccines, a human-approved version is still a ways off. But it's this kind of study, and others that receive funding from a specially-accelerated NIH grant process, that will provide the data to refine medical prevention that will stop Zika's spread.

National Institute of Health

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