WHO Rejects “Move Rio Olympics” Call

WHO Rejects “Move Rio Olympics” CallWHO Rejects “Move Rio Olympics” Call

The World Health Organization has rejected a call to move or postpone this summer’s Rio Olympic Games over the Zika outbreak. It said this would “not significantly alter” the spread of the virus, which is linked to serious birth defects.

In an open letter to the WHO, more than 100 leading scientists had said new findings about Zika made it “unethical” for the games to go ahead. They also said the global health body should revisit its Zika guidance, BBC reported.

The International Olympic Committee has said it sees no reason to delay or move the games because of the mosquito-borne disease.

The outbreak began in Brazil a year ago, but now more than 60 countries and territories have continuing transmission.

While Zika’s symptoms are mild, in the letter, the experts say it causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and may also cause a rare and sometimes fatal neurological syndrome in adults.

The letter is signed by 150 international scientists, doctors and medical ethicists from such institutions as Oxford University and Harvard and Yale universities in the United States.

They cite the failure of a mosquito-eradication program in Brazil and the country’s “weakened” health system as reasons to postpone or move the Olympics in “the name of public health”.

“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 says.

The biggest risk, it adds, is if athletes contract the virus and returned home to poor countries that have not yet suffered a Zika outbreak.

They also express concern the WHO has a conflict of interest because of its partnership with IOC.

The Rio Olympics are due to take place between 5 and 21 August.

Several public health experts had previously warned that hundreds of thousands of people arriving in Rio would speed up Zika’s spread and lead to the births of brain-damaged babies.