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Going Viral

Feb. 15, 2016
Feb. 15, 2016

Table of Contents
Feb. 15, 2016

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FIFA 2016
  • WHOEVER WINS THE ELECTION TO REPLACE DISGRACED PRESIDENT SEPP BLATTER IN THE MOST IMPORTANT DECISION IN FIFA'S CORRUPT HISTORY WILL BE FACED WITH THIS QUESTION: DO THE VOTERS REALLY WANT CHANGE?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL 2016
NBA 2016
COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2016
  • By Chris Johnson

    AFTER FIVE YEARS IN THE RECRUITING CROSSHAIRS, NO. 1 PROSPECT RASHAN GARY FINALLY PICKED A SCHOOL. NOW THE REAL BATTLE CAN BEGIN

  • The best way to stop the rash of decommitments and pulled scholarships is to let players sign as soon as they get an offer

  • By Gabe Baumgaertner

    How did the last 10 No. 1 recruits turn out?

  • Ten players who can make a difference next fall

NASCAR 2016
BUSHWACKER
  • Kent Cox turned Bushwacker into the greatest bucking bull in history—and their bond was as deep as that between any trainer and human athlete. So why did Cox make the bull a witness to his ultimate act of violence?

POINT AFTER
Departments

Going Viral

The Zika virus spreading through Brazil and the Americas will do more than the Olympics ever could to bring the world together

THE OLYMPICS ARE supposed to make our world seem smaller, to underscore the things we have in common—and therein lies the irony of the mosquito-borne Zika virus spreading through Brazil and much of the Americas less than six months before the Rio Olympics. It's as if the pestilence materialized to one-up the Games themselves. Last week the World Health Organization certified Zika as a "public health emergency of international concern," putting the disease on the same level as Ebola in 2014. The designation touched off a parallel outbreak of anxiety, one that may do more to foster solidarity among humanity than anything the IOC could hope to achieve with the Olympic movement.

This is an article from the Feb. 15, 2016 issue

Global worry follows as much from what we don't know about Zika as from what we do. The virus was discovered nearly 70 years ago in a monkey in Uganda. Yet infected people showed relatively mild symptoms and usually recovered within a week, so researchers back-burnered work into Zika's epidemiology as well as the development of a vaccine, which remains years and hundreds of millions of dollars away. Here's what we think we know: The virus seems to lead to microcephaly—abnormal smallness of the head—in newborns; it has been associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a potentially fatal autoimmune condition marked by a spreading paralysis in men and women of all ages; and there is now evidence that it can be transmitted sexually. Last week officials in greater Dallas confirmed that a resident had contracted the disease from a sexual partner just back from Venezuela. Suddenly those obligatory pre-Olympic references to condom stockpiles in the athletes' village take on relevance beyond the usual nudge and wink.

Charles Chiu, director of the Viral Diagnostics and Discovery Center at UC San Francisco, believes the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil accelerated Zika's spread. "Now that the virus is endemic [there], the worry is that [people] may come to Brazil for the Olympics and then take it back to their home countries," he says. If an infected Olympic visitor were to return home and be bitten by a mosquito, that airborne "vector" could spread the virus with its next bite.

So far the Olympic establishment is reacting with its usual the-Games-must-go-on bravado. But comments by IOC president Thomas Bach (he's "very confident" that the Rio Olympics will be safe for athletes and spectators alike) and Jacques Wagner, the chief of staff to Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff ("zero risk if you are not a pregnant woman") should be regarded with a dose of skepticism.

With its lagoons and improvised drainage, Rio in its natural state is a theme park for Aedes aegypti, the main mosquito that carries the virus in Brazil. But as a result of Olympics-related construction and the razing of favelas, the city today features even more of the standing water in which the insect breeds. Moreover, the soccer competition—women's teams are composed entirely of players of child-bearing age—will extend to five other cities, including Manaus, which is known as "the jungle city." The Aedes aegypti is most active at dawn and dusk, the latter a popular time for people to be out and about. Says one U.S. women's soccer player, "It's definitely worrisome. But at the end of the day I think there are a lot of things that come up pre-Olympics that are concerns, and this is kind of a bigger concern than it was with smog in Beijing [site of the 2008 Summer Games] and potential terrorist attacks in London ['12]."

Until recently, worries about disease in Rio extended primarily to the rowers, sailors and open-water swimmers vulnerable to poor water quality (SI, Aug. 17, 2015). Now the circle of concern will encompass everyone. And it will include the fate of the host country itself. When Brazil won the right to stage the Games in 2009, the nation's citizens exulted in their validation as major global players. What a difference a few years makes. To treat an explosion of microcephalic infants and Guillain-Barré victims would be a challenge for any nation, but it will put extraordinary strain on a public health system already teetering as a result of a struggling economy.

But the impresarios of international sport aren't easily deterred. FIFA still seems inured to the reported deaths in Qatar of hundreds—and by kickoff of the 2022 World Cup, perhaps thousands—of migrant workers as a result of an entirely man-made crisis: the reckless and exploitative venue construction.

Here is solidarity, even if it's not the kind that the Lords of the Rings like to invoke: In the same way Zika could infect Michael Phelps as easily as any favela dweller, the virus now associated with Brazil is winding up at many distant doorsteps. Rio may be the Olympic host, but in a twisted take on the spirit of the Games, we are all prospective hosts now.

The circle of concern will encompass everyone. And it will include the fate of the host country itself.

College Basketball

Pitino Speaks

16

Extra Mustard

19

Faces in the Crowd

20

The Case for

Trading Blake Griffin

22

Dan Patrick

Jim Harbaugh

23

GO FIGURE

60

Points scored by Minnesota's Rachel Banham on Sunday, tying the women's Division I record for most in a game. The senior shot 19 of 32 from the field and 14 of 16 at the line in the Golden Gophers' 112--106 double-overtime win at Northwestern.

88

Time, in seconds, it took Arsenal to score twice on Sunday after going the previous 328 minutes against EPL opponents without one. Mesut Özil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored as Arsenal beat Bournemouth 2--0.

4

Triple doubles, with blocks, for the Heat's Hassan Whiteside since joining Miami in November 2014. No other player has even one such triple double in that time. Whiteside had 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocks in a 98--95 win at Charlotte last Friday.

ILLUSTRATIONILLUSTRATION BY ANDREW ZBIHLYJPHOTORICARDO ARDUENGO/AP (BANHAM)PHOTODYLAN MARTINEZ/ACTION IMAGES/ZUMA PRESS (ÖZIL)PHOTOJESSE JOHNSON/USA TODAY SPORTS (WHITESIDE)