The black shroud above the Rio Olympics looms bigger and darker, as researchers have detected a drug-resistant bacteria growing up freely in some of Rio’s beaches as well as in the city’s sewage.The 2016 Rio Olympics have set all the premise for a health disaster. With the major Zika epidemic, Brazil’s dramatic economic situation and a number of other health hazards, things aren’t really looking good. Brazilian researcher Renata Picao, a professor at Rio’s federal university, has recently focused on identifying drug-resistant bacteria in Rio, and she’s found it in several sites.
“We have been looking for ‘super bacteria’ in coastal waters during a one-year period in five beaches,” Picao told CNN during a visit to her lab. “We found that the threats occur in coastal waters in a variety of concentrations and that they are strongly associated with pollution. This bacteria colonizes the intestine and it goes along with feces to the hospital sewage,” Picao said. “We believe that hospital sewage goes into municipal sewage and gets to the Guanabara Bay or to other rivers and finally gets to the beach.”
She says that Rio’s contamination comes from the lack of basic sanitation which aside for the athletes who will compete in the Olympic Games, also threatens the city’s 12 million inhabitants. If this is the case, then the massive influx of athletes and tourists set to arrive in Rio will pose a huge risk.
The problems are already felt by participants. Some of the participants in the sailing events have reported skin infections and an overall discomfort with the water.
“It’s a nice sailing area but every time you get some water in your face, it feels like there’s some alien enemy entering your face,” German Paralympic sailor Heiko Kroger said during a recent visit to Rio. “I keep my nose and my lips closed.”
Authorities say they are doing their best, but their best isn’t particularly satisfactory. Just half of all the sewage in Rio is treated today. That’s a big increase from 11% five years ago, but it’s still just half.
The World Health Organization and the Olympics Committee have announced they won’t be moving or delaying the Olympics so if you plan on attending them, please make sure you take all the necessary precautions. Rio is a beautiful city, but it’s “far from perfect,” as mayor Eduardo Paes put it.