Rio triathlon overshadowed by doping and virus fears

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 8/2/2015

In the biggest test yet of preparations for the 2016 Games, hundreds of Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls swam, cycled and ran under the limpid blue skies of Copacabana over the weekend, but the glorious scenes were partly overshadowed by fears about water quality and new revelations of industrial-scale doping in international sport.

The triathlon qualifiers, which saw podium finishes for two UK athletes, came at the start of a week of competition and celebration as Rio de Janeiro moved into the final year of its countdown towards the opening ceremony next 5 August at the Maracanã stadium.

The festivities, however, have been marred by an exposé last week of the contamination of water at several venues, and Sunday’s report that a third of Olympic and world championship medals for endurance events in recent years were won by athletes who recorded suspicious doping tests. This included 10 golds won at London 2012.

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Sailing Federation will test waters for viruses in Brazil’s Olympics venues

Bill Chappell – NPR, 8/1/2015

Saying that recent stories about raw sewage in Brazilian waterways that will serve as Olympics venues in 2016 helped “wake us up again and put this back on the agenda,” the head of sailing’s world governing body says his group will test for viruses and bacteria in the water.

The International Sailing Federation’s chief executive, Peter Sowrey, tells the AP that the move is prompted by concerns over athletes’ health and safety.

The news comes days after the AP published a report on pollution in Rio’s Guanabara Bay, the scene for sailing competitions in next summer’s Olympic Games, and Rodrigo de Freitas lake, which will host rowing and canoeing events.

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Brazil dengue outbreak exposes tough challenge for Rousseff

Brian Winter – Reuters, 5/12/2015

An epidemic of dengue fever is fanning public anger over what Brazilians say is President Dilma Rousseff’s biggest challenge – the sad state of the national healthcare system.

About 750,000 cases of the mosquito-borne virus have been confirmed this year in this country of 200 million people, leading to waits of four hours or longer at some hospitals.

The disease, which causes fever and joint pain, has killed 229 people so far this year – up 45 percent from the same period in 2014.

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Brazil faces surge in number of dengue fever cases

BBC News, 5/5/2015

Brazil has registered nearly 746,000 cases of the mosquito-borne disease dengue fever this year with nine states experiencing an epidemic, the health ministry has announced. At 368 cases per 100,000 residents it amounts to an epidemic by World Health Organisation standards, but officials say the outbreak is not nationwide.

Relaxed prevention and an increase in home water storage have been blamed. More than half of the cases were in Sao Paulo.

The number of cases there – the most populous state – has tripled since last year. Nationwide there have been 235% more cases than in the same period (from January to 18 April) last year.

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Brazil City Calls In Army to Fight Dengue

Rogerio Jelmayer and Jeffrey T. Lewis – The Wall Street Journal, 4/17/2015

Brazil’s biggest city has called in the army to help combat a deadly outbreak of dengue fever that has sickened hundreds of thousands of people nationwide.

Soldiers will next week begin going door-to-door in some of São Paulo’s hardest-hit neighborhoods to educate residents on fighting mosquitoes, Mayor Fernando Haddad said on Friday.

A severe drought in southeastern Brazil has spurred residents to hoard water, often in makeshift containers, providing breeding grounds for mosquitoes that spread the disease whose symptoms can include intense muscle pain, convulsions and high fever.

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Why Brazil has a big appetite for risky pesticides

Paulo Prada – Reuters, 4/2/2015

LIMOEIRO DO NORTE, Brazil – The farmers of Brazil have become the world’s top exporters of sugar, orange juice, coffee, beef, poultry and soybeans. They’ve also earned a more dubious distinction: In 2012, Brazil passed the United States as the largest buyer of pesticides.

This rapid growth has made Brazil an enticing market for pesticides banned or phased out in richer nations because of health or environmental risks.

At least four major pesticide makers – U.S.-based FMC Corp., Denmark’s Cheminova A/S, Helm AG of Germany and Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta AG – sell products here that are no longer allowed in their domestic markets, a Reuters review of registered pesticides found.

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Dengue fever in Brazil: When it rains, it pours

The Economist, 3/28/2015

A MOIST March, combined with the wettest February in 20 years, has brought respite to Brazil’s parched south-east. Last year’s record drought in the region, where two in five Brazilians live and where more than half the country’s output is produced, had stretched into January. So the drenching is welcome. But the rains have also stirred up an old scourge: dengue fever, a disease transmitted by mosquitoes. Its early symptoms resemble flu but it can cause fatal internal and external bleeding.

At least 224,000 cases had been registered across Brazil by March 7th, 162% more than in the same period in 2014, when the dry weather left fewer stagnant puddles in which mosquitoes could breed. The situation is gravest in the state of São Paulo, where 124,000 people have been diagnosed since January, an eightfold increase on last year. Infections have reached epidemic levels in nearly half the state’s municipalities (mostly the smaller ones). São Paulo has seen 67 confirmed fatalities. Mercifully, things in the rest of the country are better, meaning that the situation is less severe than the full-blown epidemic that infected 1.5m people in 2013.

The rain is not the only reason for the current outbreak. Paradoxically, another cause is last year’s drought. Faced with the threat of rationing, people have been storing rainwater, often in open containers, which make good breeding-grounds for mosquitoes. In São Paulo, many of this year’s worst-hit towns were spared during previous dengue flare-ups, so fewer inhabitants have had a chance to develop natural immunity.

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