WHO Rejects Calls To Move Or Delay Rio Olympic Games

Based on current assessments of Zika, there is no 'public health justification' for postponing or cancelling the Games.

29/05/2016 6:34 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
Between February and April of this year, Brazil's health ministry registered 91,387 likely cases of the Zika virus.

The World Health Organisation has rejected calls to move or postpone the 2016 Rio Olympic Games over the Zika outbreak, saying it would not "significantly alter" the spread of the virus.

The United Nations health agency also said that there was "no public health justification" for postponing.

On Friday, 150 international doctors, scientists and researchers wrote an open letter to the WHO calling for the games to be moved or delayed due to the virus, which is linked to serious birth defects.

The letter argued that in light of new findings about Zika, it would be "irresponsible" and "unethical" for the Games to go ahead.

"Our greater concern is for global health. The Brazilian strain of Zika virus harms health in many ways that science has not observed before," the letter said.

"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 be endemic.

"Should that happen to poor, as-yet unaffected places (e.g., most of South Asia and Africa) the suffering can be great."

Between February and April of this year, Brazil's health ministry registered 91,387 likely cases of the Zika virus, with the number of babies born with Zika-linked defects standing at 4,908 in April.

In its statement, the WHO, which has declared the Zika virus a global public health emergency, said that "Brazil is one of almost 60 countries and territories which to date report continuing transmission of Zika by mosquitoes.

"People continue 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."

The WHO said it would continue to provide public health advice to the Government of Brazil and the Rio 2016 Organising Committee on ways to further mitigate the risk of athletes and visitors contracting the virus during the Games.

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