A health-monitoring mobile app will help Spanish Olympic athletes detect infectious diseases—particularly Zika virus infection—during their stay in Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The app was initially created by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) and Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, with technological assistance from the Polytechnic University of Madrid. An agreement between the “la Caixa” Foundation and the Spanish Olympic Committee has made it possible to develop it further and make it available to the Spanish Olympic delegation.
As well as gathering information on the athletes’ health, the app will also provide accurate, up-to-date information on the risk of Zika virus infection in order to reassure the members of the delegation and prevent the spread of fear and misinformation. The app currently available to Olympic athletes is a pilot version; after the Olympic Games, it will be redesigned for use by the general public.
The app provides a 24-hour communication channel connecting the executive and medical teams of the Spanish Olympic delegation in Brazil with experts in tropical medicine at ISGlobal and Hospital Clínic de Barcelona.
Spanish athletes using the app will participate in a study designed to collect data on the incidence of communicable diseases, including Zika virus infection. On the basis of the information collected from symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, the app will assess the rate at which people exposed to the Zika virus become infected during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Zika Virus: Background and Needs
The Zika virus outbreak in Latin America and the Caribbean started in 2015. Although symptoms of the disease are mild in most patients, infection during pregnancy has been associated with congenital abnormalities and, more rarely, with neurological disorders.
Brazil is one of the areas of Latin America and the Caribbean with active Zika virus transmission, and Rio de Janeiro is one of the cities with the largest number of cases. Transmission of the dengue and chikungunya viruses—which, like Zika, are transmitted by diurnally-active urban mosquitoes of the Aedes genus—is also active in the Rio de Janeiro area. In addition, the malaria parasite—transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes—is concentrated in the Amazon basin in north-eastern Brazil.
Large events like the 2016 Olympic Games pose challenges for individual safety as well as global health. The thousands of people expected to converge on the host cities of Rio de Janeiro and Manaus could spread the Zika virus to other parts of the world. The new app was created as part of a prevention plan for the Spanish Olympic team to provide information to its members and ensure the detection and monitoring of cases of Zika virus infection and other communicable diseases.