A group of medical professionals has called for the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to be moved to a new location or pushed back due to Zika in an open letter to the World Health Organization.
More than 150 health experts signed the letter addressed to WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan, saying it poses a “unnecessary risk” to upwards of 500,000 tourists traveling to the city for the games.
“We make this call despite the widespread fatalism that the Rio 2016 Games are inevitable or ‘too big to fail,'” the letter reads. “History teaches this is wrong: the 1916, 1940, and 1944 Olympic Games were not just postponed, but cancelled, and other sporting events were moved because of disease, as Major League Baseball did for Zika, and the Africa Cup of Nations did for Ebola.”
“Currently, many athletes, delegations, and journalists are struggling with the decision of whether to participate in the Rio 2016 Games,” they said. “We agree with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommendation that workers should ‘Consider delaying travel to areas with active Zika virus transmission.’ If that advice were followed uniformly, no athlete would have to choose between risking disease and participating in a competition that many have trained for their whole lives.”
The group expressed their concern WHO would dismiss their concerns due to their partnership with
“Not doing so casts doubt on WHO’s neutrality, for reasons described further in the Appendix,” they continued.
According to a report by Cambridge University, the risk of tourists catching the virus is low.
“The worst-case scenario is that there will be 3.2 Zika infections per 100,000 tourists,” the report said.
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