WHO: no point delaying or moving Olympics, Zika already rampant

Responding to a call from more than 100 leading scientists, who said it would be unethical for the Games to go ahead as scheduled, the United Nations health agency on Saturday (local time) said having the Games in Rio as planned would “not significantly alter” the spread of Zika, which is linked to serious birth defects.

“Based on the current assessment of Zika virus circulating in almost 60 countries globally and 39 in the Americas, there is no public health justification for postponing or cancelling the games,” the WHO said in a statement.

In a public letter posted online on Friday, around 150 leading public health experts, many of them bioethicists, said the risk of infection from the Zika virus was too high for the Games to go ahead safely.

The letter, sent to WHO director-general Margaret Chan, said the Games, due to be held in Rio de Janeiro in August, should be moved to another location or delayed.

“An unnecessary risk is posed when 500,000 foreign tourists from all countries attend the Games, potentially acquire that strain, and return home to places where it can become endemic,” the letter said.

But the WHO rejected the call, saying Brazil “is one of almost 60 countries and territories” where Zika has been detected and that people continued to travel between these countries and territories for a variety of reasons.

“The best way to reduce risk of disease is to follow public health travel advice,” it said.

One of the signatories of the letter, brain injury specialist Dr Ford Vox, called the WHO’s response “defeatist, depressing, and quite a bit too quick for anyone to believe they gave the letter due consideration.”

The scientific community is divided over the threat of Zika due to the Rio Olympics, with many experts saying the call for postponement or relocation is unjustified.

“We live in an incredibly interconnected world, global travel and trade are daily activities that offer Zika virus an opportunity to spread,” said Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the UK’s University of Nottingham.

“By comparison to these routine activities, the increased risk that the Olympics poses is a drop in the ocean.”

Hands up who would feel comfortable with their son or daughter going off to the Olympics?  You would have to imagine that money is making decisions here rather than prudent health measures.


– Reuters via Newshub


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  • STAG

    I wouldn’t want to go on the basis that it is a tremendously unsafe 3rd world country where you are far more likely to get knifed then Zika.

    • Sailor Sam

      Which happened recently to some European sailors who were practising in Rio for the olympics.

  • F T Bear

    Lets not kid ourselves, the Olympic games is ONLY about the money. The ideals that it might have been based on once have long been corrupted by the money and drugs.

  • shykiwibloke

    The whole thing is going to have its share of problems. For instance, the special railway line to the games is not inoperation yet. They have just started commissioning trials with the single train that has been deleivered so far. As anyone in Auckland will tell you, it takes many many months to complete proper testing before reliable service can start.

  • taurangaruru

    Judging by the number of condoms being supplied I would be more worried about the bedroom olympics at the Olympics then the zika virus

  • tas

    “150 leading public health experts, many of them bioethicists”

    I’ve never understood what qualifies a “bioethicist” to tell people what is or is not ethical.

  • WBC

    At the end of the day, our sons and daughters have been more likely to catch Zika in Rarotonga or several other Pacific Islands for the last several years then they are in Rio. If someone is not comfortable with them traveling to RIO they should be doing diligence on our local environment before letting them traveling closer to home.

    So while the WHOs point may sound flippant it is true. Rio is not the heart, it’s just the latest node. We wouldn’t quarantine Samoa or Fiji…

  • Oh Please

    It’s as predictable as a Hagar book. Every 4 years there’s calls for the Olympics to be boycotted or relocated for some reason or other. I’d guess it’s the fun-hating lefties doing most of the negative clap-trap.