A Word on the Zika Virus Outburst to the ASYNC2016 to-be ParticipantsDear colleague asynchronous researchers and professionals:
The zika virus outbreak has received much attention in recent news. The outbreak has impacted many places in the world, notably the Caribbean and Latin America, including Brazil. Here we provide some information about zika in Brazil in general, and Porto Alegre, the venue for ASYNC2016, in particular.
General information on zika can be obtained in the recent wikipedia page located in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zika_virus_outbreak_(2015%E2%80%93present). We advise you to take a look at the information contained therein. As explained in that website, the zika virus is in general a minor illness, which often goes undetected and vanishes. However, there is one exception to it, which are the risks involved if the infection occurs in pregnant women. This may bear a connection with infant microcephaly and other disorders (although no sure connection has been established so far in this sense). You may find more technical data on the subject in the recent article published on The Lancet: http://www.thelancet.com/pb/assets/raw/Lancet/pdfs/S0140673616002737.pdf.
Brazil is a large country, and ASYNC2016 will be held at a huge distance from the regions associated with the zika outbreak. ASYNC'2016 is being held in Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul (RS), the Southernmost state in Brazil. RS borders Uruguay and Argentina, countries that are not include on the U.S. CDC travel advisory for zika http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-information. While Brazil has one of the largest number of reported zika virus infection, these are concentrated in the northeastern part of the country, in regions that are between 2,000 to 4,000Km (1,300 to 2,500mi) from Porto Alegre.
Please, see also the website http://latinamericanscience.org/2016/01/mapping-the-distribution-of-microcephaly-cases-in-brazil// for relevant information about microcephaly cases and their occurrence in Brazil, as well as the possible relationship of these with the zika outburst.
Taking a look at the current data from the RS Health Department, the state has reported exactly two confirmed cases of zika infection so far, from people that acquired the disease outside the state and travelled back here (see http://www.saude.rs.gov.br/conteudo/9794/?Semin%C3%A1rio_debate_a_situa%C3%A7%C3%A3o_da_Dengue%2C_Chikungunya_e_Zika_V%C3%ADrus_no_RS. The text is unfortunately in Portuguese only). This is also the current situation on the state of North Carolina, USA, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from USA, 5 times less than the situation in California and 21 times less than what happens in the state of Florida. This information is available together with the zyka map in US territory in the website http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/united-states.html/.
Mosquito infections like zika spread more strongly during summer, especially in hot places. By the time ASYNC2016 will take place, May, the average temperature in Porto Alegre is between 13-22 degree Celsius (or 55-72 degrees Fahrenheit), corresponding to the end of fall, when mosquito populations decline markedly.
With all the above said, we believe there is little cause for alarm. Please, analyze the above data and decide what is best in your case. We are available to address any concerns you may have and provide any information available to us as ASYNC2016 organizers. Please, feel free to contact us by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).