The Brazilian government is developing a smartphone application to prevent the spread of the Zika virus at this year’s summer Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. The app is slated for a May release, and will feature crucial information in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian.
The app will help to alert tourists and spectators on how best to combat the spread of the virus. Zika has run rampant through the Americas in recent months, through 40 different countries, with as many as 1.5 million Brazilians infected.
It will provide information to help people prevent contracting the virus, determine if they have caught it, and direct them to the nearest pharmacy if required.
This comes amid concerns from state and national associations, and athletes wavering in their decisions to attend the Olympic games in light of the outbreak.
The Zika virus is spread through mosquito bites and sexual contact. It causes flu-like symptoms, and some which are much more serious. It has been proven to cause microcephaly, a birth defect which reduces head size and results in brain abnormalities.
More recently, a possible link between the Zika virus, and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) has emerged. An uncommon illness, GBS is a sickness of the nervous system. The immune system attacks and damages nerve cells, which leads to muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. Incidents of GBS have coincided with Zika outbreaks before.
Brazil has already spent millions and mobilised forces to stop the spread of the virus. The creation of this app serves to cement the strong information campaign that has also been deployed since the outbreak began in 2015.
This is not the only Zika-related app however. The World Health Organisation (WHO) released their own Zika app. The app is a tool for physicians and health workers to stay up to date with the latest information about Zika, and how best to deal with it when it is encountered.
There is significant and rampant misinformation regarding Zika and its symptoms. When the outbreak first began, wild conspiracy theories began to take root. From claims that Zika was part of a global depopulation strategy being driven by billionaires such as Bill Gates, to microcephaly being the result of a hidden rubella outbreak, Brazil was ignited in pseudo-scientific paranoia.
With these apps, the new face of the information campaign, the Brazilian government can inform individuals, both natives and tourists, about Zika, its effects, and how best to prevent contracting it. With an expensive Olympic games on the horizon, the word needs to be spread fast.