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article imageZika virus was not introduced by football fans

By Tim Sandle     Mar 24, 2016 in Health
A theory, doing the rounds on the Internet, that the Zika virus was introduced to South America by football fans has been dismissed in a new science paper.
A popular, but unsubstantiated theory, is that the Zika virus was introduced into Brazil and adjoining South American countries, by the hoards of football (soccer) fans who visited the country during the 2014 World Cup. This has been dismissed and proven otherwise by a new science paper which indicates the first detection of the virus was at least one year earlier. New data also dismisses a parallel theory that the disease was introduced during the World Sprint Championship canoe race in 2014.
The debate about 2013 or 2014 does not change the fact that it was in 2015 that the first significant number of cases were detected and it has been during 2016 that up to one million people in Brazil alone have become infected.
Zika virus was discovered in 1947 in Uganda. It is a mosquito transmitted virus and it was not, until the recent outbreak, given widespread scientific or medical attention. While symptoms only appear in one out of four people (and here the disease appears as a rash and slight fever), the primary risk is to pregnant women, and here the condition can be very serious to the unborn child.
The new research about the introduction of Zika virus follows the analysis of the genetic code of seven Zika samples from across Brazil. The similarity of these indicates that the disease was most likely introduced by one person, but dates this to sometime in 2013.
Speaking with the BBC, lead researcher Professor Oliver Pybus, from the University of Oxford, said: "We can't be sure exactly how the virus got into the Americas, but it certainly seems that the virus was already in the continent before the start of the World Cup in 2014."
The paper discussing the origins of the disease is published in the journal Science, in a paper titled "Zika virus in the Americas: Early epidemiological and genetic findings."
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