WHO Committee on Zika to Evaluate the Risk of Olympics in Brazil

WHO will evaluate if it is safe to go to the Olympics


The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the Emergency Committee on Zika will meet in June to evaluate the risks associated with holding the Olympics in Brazil in August 2016.

It is important to remember that the WHO’s assessment deals with the public health issue of Zika. It cannot cancel or move the Olympics.  Only the International Olympics Committee (IOC) can do that. But if the WHO says the risk is too great to hold the games in Rio that would have a big effect on attendance at the games.

What led to the WHO decision

Two things led to the WHO decision to evaluate the risk of attending the Olympics.

In May, an article in the Harvard Public Heath Review entitled “Why Public Health Concerns for Global Spread of Zika Virus Means That Rio de Janeiro’s 2016 Olympic Games Must Not Proceed” called for the 2016 Olympics to be postponed or moved. The article raised a question that struck me as very important.  It asked: “But for the Games, would anyone recommend sending an extra half a million visitors into Brazil right now?”

And then 150 public health experts and scientists released an open letter to the WHO Director General saying it was unethical for the games to go ahead as scheduled and called for the games to be postponed or moved.  The letter asked the WHO to “conduct a fresh, evidence-based assessment of Zika and the Games, and its recommendations for travelers.”

The WHO has not announced the date for the next meeting of the WHO Emergency Committee on Zika but has said it would be meet in June.

In conclusion   

It is time for the WHO to look at all the latest information about Zika, Microcephaly and Guillain-Barré Syndrome. It is time for the WHO to recommend that the IOC either postpone the Olympics or move them to another location.

I realize that either option is a great loss and hardship for the people of Brazil, the athletes and the many fans who planned to attend. But you have to weigh that against the potential worldwide epidemic that could be caused by having over 500,000 people visit an infected area and then bring the disease back to their home countries.

The Harvard Public Health Review says it best.  WHY would you invite half a million people to Brazil right now?

The answer is you don’t.

Stay safe and travel far

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