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Cool temperatures, few mosquitoes make Games Zika-free, so far

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So Far Rio 2016 Is Zika Free

So far, at the Olympics many feared would be the Zika Games, so good.

With as many as one million people expected to attend the spectacle, half of them foreigners, Rio de Janeiro has not turned out to be the Zika hothouse some athletes and visitors feared as the virus wreaked havoc in Brazil earlier this year.

SEE MORE: Everything you need to know about the Summer Olympics

Despite some hot days, swings back to cooler temperatures in Brazil's winter mean that the population of the mosquito responsible for spreading the virus has dwindled.

And Rio itself never endured an epidemic as grave as many scientists had feared early this year. Even with thousands of reported cases of Zika during hot months, Rio was not hit as hard by the virus as Brazil's northeast, for reasons that scientists and the government do not yet understand.

"I'm really not concerned," said Dutch beach volleyball player Alexander Brouwar after a match in the towering metal arena set up for the sport on Rio's famed Copacabana beach.

"I haven't seen one mosquito," he added.

STILL EARLY

The ongoing Zika outbreak was first detected last year in Brazil, where it has been linked to more than 1,700 cases of microcephaly - a birth defect marked by small head size - in babies of infected mothers. There is no vaccine for Zika, which usually only causes mild flu-like symptoms in those infected.

The virus is still spreading globally and has affected at least 54 countries, according to the World Health Organization. That includes the United States, where authorities on Monday said they were investigating a new case of local transmission in Florida.

It is also still early in the Games. Any sustained increase in temperature, though not expected until the local summer approaches later this year, could cause a rebound in mosquito populations. And those who get the virus normally do so within days of being bitten by a mosquito infected with Zika.

But with very few cases of Zika reported in Rio in recent weeks, the mosquitoes themselves, if they appear, have few sources of even picking it up. Aedes aegypti, the mosquito primarily responsible for spreading Zika, transmits it by biting an infected person and then moving on to another.

Compared with January, when more than 7,700 cases of Zika were reported in Rio, only about 140 cases were reported during the month of July, according to municipal figures through July 28, the latest available.

Several competitors, including golfers Jason Day and Rory McIlroy, skipped the games because of Zika and some did attend, but expressed concern about the disease, including British heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill and U.S. women's soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo.

But the subject has died down among athletes.

"I've not even heard anybody talk about it," said Helen Glover, a British rower who was a 2012 gold medalist, noting the low-level of concern.

BEST PHOTOS OF THE SUMMER OLYMPICS SO FAR:

24 PHOTOS
Best photos from the 2016 summer Olympics
See Gallery
Best photos from the 2016 summer Olympics
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Simone Biles of the United States competes on the balance beam during Women's qualification for Artistic Gymnastics on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Jonas Valanciunas of Lithuania shoots over Marcus Vinicius Marquinhos of Brazil during a Men's preliminary round basketball game between Brazil and Lithuania on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Segun Toriola of Nigeria plays a Men's Singles second round match against Koki Niwa of Japan on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Riocentro - Pavilion 3 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 06: Bret Bonanni #10 of United States shoots the ball against Croatia during the Men's Water Polo Preliminary Round - Group B match between the United States of America and Croatia at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 6, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Laura Giombini of Italy (R) reacts during the Women's Beach Volleyball preliminary round Pool D match against Jamie Lynn Broder and Kristina Valjas of Canada on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Beach Volleyball Arena on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Robert Gardos of Austria plays a Men's Singles second round match against Ovidiu Ionescu of Romania on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Riocentro - Pavilion 3 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Shu-Ching Hsu of Chinese Taipei competes during the Women's 53kg Group A weightlifting contest on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Riocentro - Pavilion 2 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
2016 Rio Olympics - Beach Volleyball - Women's Preliminary - Beach Volleyball Arena - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 07/08/2016. Doaa Elghobashy (EGY) of Egypt and Kira Walkenhorst (GER) of Germany compete. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 08: Lilly King of the United States celebrates winning gold in the Women's 100m Breaststroke Final on Day 3 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09: Michael Phelps (L) of the United States leads Chad le Clos of South Africa in the Men's 200m Butterfly Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09: Simone Biles of the United States competes on the balance beam during the Artistic Gymnastics Women's Team Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09: Ruolin Chen and Huixia Liu of China compete in the Women's Diving Synchronised 10m Platform Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10: Ning Ding of China in action during the Womens Table Tennis Singles Final match against Li Xiaoxia of China at Rio Centro onn August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10: Axel Augis of France competes on the horizontal bar during the Men's Individual All-Around final on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14: Linda Cerruti and Costanza Ferro of Italy compete in the Women's Duets Synchronised Swimming Free Routine Preliminary Round on Day 9 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 13: Jennifer Oeser of Germany competes in the Women's Heptathlon Long Jump on Day 8 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12: Matthew Glaetzer of Australia competes in the Men's Sprint Qualifying on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Velodrome on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14: Usain Bolt of Jamaica competes in the Men's 100 meter semifinal on Day 9 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12: An RS-X athlete is seen on the way back to the marina after the conclusion of racing on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Marina da Gloria on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 17: Silver medalist Nia Ali (L) and gold medalist Brianna Rollins of the United States celebrate after the Women's 100m Hurdles Final on Day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20: Russia compete during the ribbon rotation 1 in the group all-round qualification round at the at Rio Olympic Arena on August 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 19: The riders compete during the Men's semi final 2 on day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic BMX Centre on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 19: Yauheni Karaliou of Belarus competes during the Diving Men's 10m Platform Preliminary on Day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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LEAVING LITTLE TO CHANCE

Yet local authorities and Olympic organizers are staying cautious.

"We cannot leave this to chance," Mario Andrada, a spokesman for local organizers, told reporters at a briefing on Monday, stressing that anti-mosquito measures they have been using for months will remain in place throughout the Games.

In addition to air conditioning in athletes' rooms, meant to keep them from opening their windows in high temperatures, Olympic officials have made insect repellent available for free to them in housing, training and competition facilities.

Municipal health agents have been scouring venues and popular tourists sites to eliminate stagnant water and other areas where Aedes lay eggs.

Meanwhile, the Olympics are still a stage for Zika-related marketing by companies which see opportunity in any lingering fears, from aggressive advertising by repellent manufacturers to a couple of condom makers who touted Zika-proof prophylactics – never mind that any condom would suffice in protecting against rare cases of Zika transmission through semen.

Given the lack of mosquitoes, most visitors are brushing off any concerns. "I didn't bring any repellent," said Sophie Bahgeri, a 25-year-old Australian strolling along the beach.

Even those with most reason for worry say they are much more relaxed about the virus than they had been.

"I can't remember the last person I heard of coming down with Zika," said Fabiana Macedo, a 30-year-old resident of Tabajares, a Rio slum whose dense population and poor sanitation is the sort of community most affected by the outbreak.

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