WHO To Meet Over Zika Concerns as Rio Olympic Games ApproachJune 20, 2016 in 2016 Summer Olympics - Security Update
A World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman has disclosed that the WHO’s Emergency Committee on Zika will meet in the coming weeks in order to evaluate the risks tied to going on with the Olympic Games in Brazil in August. The meeting comes as the debate grows over the safety of holding the Olympics in the South American country amidst the ongoing Zika virus outbreak.
According to WHO spokesman Nyka Alexander, “the Emergency Committee meeting will consider the situation in Brazil, including the question of the Olympics,” noting that while the WHO will make risk assessments of a public health issue, it will ultimately be up to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to decide on holding the event in Rio de Janeiro, which is due to begin on 5 August. A spokesman for Rio 2016 has disclosed that officials are continuing to follow WHO recommendations on Zika.
Dr David Heymann, chairman of the WHO committee of independent experts, has disclosed that postponing the Rio Olympics over fears that it could speed the spread of the Zika virus would give a “false” sense of security because travellers are constantly going in and out of Brazil. WHO experts have also indicated that because it will be winter in Brazil when the Olympics begin, mosquitoes that carry the virus will be less abundant.
At the beginning of June, a public letter was signed by 150 public health experts and scientists calling for the Olympics to be delayed or moved over concerns that the Games could speed up the global spread of the Zika virus. However top US officials agreed with WHO experts that Zika did not pose enough of a risk to postpone or move the Olympics. According to Dr Tom Frieden, director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, travel to the Olympics would represent less than one quarter of 1 percent of all travel to Zika-affected areas, adding that the risk was low except for pregnant women.
While athletes will have to make their own decisions as to whether to risk Zika for the potential globally of Olympic gold, some athletes have already withdrawn from the competition.