Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Zika and the Olympics

Olympics fans must take Zika precautions before travelling

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 14 June 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i3255
  1. Ricardo P Igreja, professor of infectious and parasitic diseases
  1. Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rua von Martius 325, Rio de Janeiro/RJ, Brazil
  1. rpigreja{at}

The Olympic Games are a popular but vulnerable global event and thus intrinsically raise the expectations of the international community on all aspects of preparedness, including public health.1 Coombes reports that WHO’s statement advised athletes and visitors travelling to the games in Rio to practise safe sex, choose air conditioned accommodation, use insect repellent, and wear light coloured clothing that covers as much of the body as possible.2

Nevertheless, the Brazilian market does not have repellents with ≥20% diethyltoluamide (DEET), which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends.3 The directions for repellents are written such that we cannot read their small, out of focus letters. Generally, higher concentrations of the active ingredient provide longer protection and longer reapplication intervals.

Regarding the Aedes mosquito, DEET at concentration of ≥20% can provide 10 hours’ protection.4 Combining DEET and permethrin impregnated clothing enhances protection against arthropod bites. Generally, clothing treated with 0.5% permethrin aerosol or pump spray is effective at preventing arthropod bites for at least two weeks.5 But these products are not available in Brazil, either: to avoid arthropod-borne diseases, repellents should be purchased and clothing treated before travelling to Brazil.

Despite the precautions recommended in this letter, it is time to light the Olympic cauldron in Rio.


  • Competing interests: None declared.


View Abstract

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription