Zika virus update: WHO rejects call to move Rio Olympics

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently rejected a call to move the date of the Rio Olympic Games this summer due to the rising Zika outbreak.

Over 100 scientists sent an open letter to the organization asking to move or postpone the games due to the mosquito-borne virus, which has now spread in more than 60 countries worldwide.

The letter was signed by 150 scientists from all over the world, including institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Oxford universities, giving gave scientific evidence that the virus causes severe birth defects, like babies being born with abnormally small heads. For adults, they say that the disease can cause neurological problems.

The letter, which was sent to WHO director-general Dr Margaret Chan, also highlighted that the greater concern right now is global health, and that there is a risk when 500,000 people from all over the world attend the games, potentially get the strain, and return home, bringing the disease to more places.

Read the full statement here.

“The fire is already burning, but that is not a rationale not to do anything about the Olympics,” University of Ottawa professor Amir Attaran, one of the letter’s authors. “It is not the time now to throw more gasoline onto the fire.”

The WHO said that based on its assessment, cancelling or changing the location of the games “will not significantly alter the international spread of Zika virus.”

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Thursday that “there is no public health reason to cancel or delay the Olympics.”

The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil will run from August 5 to 21. Over half a million people from all over the world are expected to attend.

Fore more information on the Zika virus, visit the CDC site here.