Rio 2016 Olympics: Understanding outbreaks like the Zika virus

Ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics, there has been much fear over the Zika virus epidemic currently ongoing in Brazil. High profile sport stars such as basketballer Stephen Curry and cyclist Tejay van Garderen, as well as seven of the world’s best golfers, have quoted the virus as a reason to pull out of the Games.

Here ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize winner Professor Melissa Leach, Director at the Institute of Development Studies (and former Director of the ESRC-funded STEPS Centre), shows how social science can reveal vital socio-cultural dimensions and stories to help responses to epidemics such as the Zika virus.

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Zika virus is the latest emerging infectious disease epidemic to hit global headlines. First identified in Uganda in 1947 and transmitted mainly by the Aedes aegyptii mosquito, the virus is now spreading rapidly across Latin America and beyond.

Many cases just have flu-like symptoms, but the virus is also blamed for complications such as Guillain-Barré syndrome and, most significantly, a dramatic upsurge in birth defects, including thousands of cases of microcephaly in Brazil since October 2015. Continue reading