Expert To Rio Athletes: ‘Don’t Put Your Head Under Water’
Just days ahead of the Olympic Games, the waterways of Rio de Janeiro are as filthy as ever.
A study commissioned by The Associated Press finds that the waters are still contaminated with raw human sewage, teeming with dangerous viruses and bacteria.
The situation puts some 1,400 athletes at risk of getting violently ill in water competitions. And the tests indicate that tourists also face potentially serious health risks on the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana.
One expert has this advice for travelers to Rio: “Don’t put your head under water.” Dr. Valerie Harwood of the University of South Florida says the levels of viruses present in the waters in Rio are “pretty much unheard of in surface waters in the U.S.” because waste water here is treated.
Since the AP released the initial results last July, athletes have been taking elaborate precautions to prevent illnesses that could potentially knock them out of the competition. They’ve been taking antibiotics, bleaching oars and donning plastic suits and gloves in an effort to limit contact with the water.
But antibiotics combat bacterial infections, not viruses.
Danger is lurking even in the sand. Samples from the beaches at Copacabana and Ipanema revealed high levels of viruses, which recent studies have suggested can pose a health risk – particularly to babies and small children.