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I don’t envy the athletes trying to figure out their individual risk of getting Zika at the Olympics — which open Friday — even though that risk is relatively low. There’s consensus among scientists that Zika is dangerous for pregnant women, who are at risk of giving birth to infants with neurological defects as a result of the infection, and that it can cause Guillain-Barré syndrome, a condition that leads the body’s immune system to attack the nervous system, often causing paralysis. And it can be transmitted sexually. But there are still a lot of unknowns about Zika, including which mosquitoes can carry it and how long it stays in the body.2

So how did the CDC land on this conclusion? The agency’s modeling wasn’t about whether any of the Olympic athletes will get Zika; the experts assume that some might. Instead, officials wanted to determine whether holding the games risked causing an outbreak in countries that don’t currently have one. (Zika is already spreading without the Olympics: The CDC has travel advisories for more than 50 countries and territories, as well as Miami, where at least 15 people are thought to have acquired Zika locally from mosquitoes.) By the agency’s estimations, most countries’ risk of developing an outbreak as a result of travel to the Olympics by delegations and spectators is slight, either because Zika is already circulating or because so many people already arrive there from Zika-affected countries as part of normal travel.

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Image: By Report of the 2016 IOC Evaluation Commission, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27581549

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