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Zika virus: WHO rejects call to cancel or postpone Rio Olympics

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 28 May 2016, 14:38 IST

A call to cancel or postpone the Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, over Zika virus fears, has been shut down by the World Health Organization.

As per the UN agency, "Cancelling or changing the location of the 2016 Olympics will not significantly alter the international spread of the virus."

Around 150 medical experts, academia and scientists on 29 May sent an open letter to WHO saying that the Games could speed up the spread of the mosquito-borne disease.

However, giving the reference of a current assessment, WHO said, "There is no public health justification for postponing or cancelling the games."

"WHO will continue to monitor the situation and update our advice as necessary," it added.

The letter has been signed by 150 international scientists, doctors, and medical ethicists from such institutions as Oxford, Harvard, and Yale.

An unnecessary risk is posed when 5,00,000 foreign tourists from countries across the world attend the Games, potentially acquire that strain, and return home to places where it can become endemic, the letter warned.

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

They also expressed concern that WHO has a conflict of interest because of its partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The outbreak, which began in Brazil a year ago, has now spread across 60 countries and territories.

First published: 28 May 2016, 14:38 IST