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Super Bacteria at Rio Beaches Add to Olympic Scare

One month before the summer Olympics are set to be begin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil amid the threat of the Zika virus, another health threat has been identified in the city.

One month before the summer Olympics are set to be begin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil amid the threat of the Zika virus, another health threat has been identified in the city.

Although, the situation surrounding the Rio Olympic Games is already bad enough, it has only gotten worse with the detection of a super-bacteria on the shores of the city’s beaches. The drug-resistant bacteria are believed to have been identified by a team of researchers who have been “looking for ‘super bacteria’ in coastal waters during a one year period in five beaches,” lead researcher, Renata Picao, told CNN. Picao’s team believes that the source of the bacteria was local hospital sewage, which was routed into the bay.

Picao attributes the growth of the bacteria in the coastal water to pollution, which she says is due to the city’s “fragile” sanitation infrastructure. These particular bacteria colonize the host’s intestines and are released in feces, which makes its way from the hospital sewage system into the bays and beaches. Picao stated, “We believe that hospital sewage goes into municipal sewage and gets to the Guanabara Bay or to other rivers and finally gets to the beach.”

Several of the five beaches originally tested for super bacteria have been flagged, among these are Flamengo and Botafogo, which border Olympic bays where sailors are set to compete. Heiko Kroger, a German Paralympic sailor who trains at the bay stated, “It’s a nice sailing area but every time you get some water in your face, it feels like there’s some alien enemy entering your face.” He believes that the contaminated water may have caused a skin infection in one of his teammates.

Nonetheless, neither Picao, who does not take her children to these beaches, nor the international Olympic authorities recommend changing the bays where athletes are set to sail. Picao stated, “We are making this alert because, if athletes get infected there is a chance this [super] bacteria is multi-resistant and the physicians should know about this.” She believes that since the risks associated with the super bacteria are still unknown, the venue should not change. She recommends more studies to understand these bacteria and the risks they pose to human health.

Rio’s environmental sanitation service company, Cedae, assure that World Health Organization criteria regarding water safety have been followed. Edes de Oliveira, production director, told CNN that “Fifty-one percent of the city’s sewage is now treated.” Whereas, seven years ago, that number had only been 11%.

With the numerous threats to public health, major athletes are not the only ones who have announced that they will not be traveling to South America this summer. Some media outlets are reporting that Rihanna has recently announced that she will not be visiting the continent for fear of contracting the Zika virus. In addition, in light of recent concerns, the Rio 2016 Committee has signed the Olympics’ first partnership with the insect repellent brand, OFF!, by SC Johnson. The company agreed to distributing thousands of bottles to athletes, staff, and volunteers to ward off mosquitoes.