WHO says no to delaying Games

2 minute read

WHO rejects calls from scientists to move or postpone the Rio Olympics over Zika


The WHO rejected calls in late May from scientists to move or postpone the Rio Olympics because of the risk to public health from the Zika virus.

“Based on current assessment, cancelling or changing the location of the 2016 Olympics will not significantly alter the international spread of Zika virus. The best way to reduce risk of disease is to follow public health travel advice”, the WHO said.

In an open letter to the WHO, 150 scientists, including a former white house science advisor, had said the Brazilian strain of Zika harmed health in ways science had not observed before.

Rio’s new mosquito-killing efforts were not meeting expectations, and its health system was so severely weakened as to make a last minute push against the virus impossible.

With an estimated 500,000 foreign tourists visiting Rio during the Games, the greatest fear was for global health, the letter said.

Should visitors acquire the strain, and return home to places where it can become endemic, the potential suffering was enormous, especially should that happen to poor, as-yet unaffected places, such as most of South Asia and Africa.

And while WHO said the risk from Zika was reduced in Rio’s winter months, this was partly offset when infected travelers returned home during the northern hemisphere’s summer months and peak mosquito activity, the scientists wrote.

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