More than 100 prominent doctors and professors said Friday in an open letter to the World Health Organization that the 2016 Summer Olympics, set to take place in Rio de Janeiro, should be delayed or relocated due to the Zika virus outbreak.
“We make this call despite the widespread fatalism that the Rio 2016 Games are inevitable or ‘too big to fail,’ ” the writers said in the letter. “Our greater concern is for global health. The Brazilian strain of Zika virus harms health in ways that science has not observed before.”
Doctors are not only concerned about thousands of tourists and spectators that will attend the event, but the athletes that will be competing as well. There is deep worry that the virus will be carried by athletes back to their home countries and cause it to spread to areas it has not yet touched.
“We are doing it to ask for an open, transparent discussion of the risks of holding the Olympics as planned in Brazil,” said Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University and one of the letter’s four authors.
Healthcare providers are divided on this issue. Alongside these doctors and their supporters are other qualified physicians who do not believe delaying or moving the Summer Olympics is necessary.
The World Health Organization sided with the latter group. The International Olympic Committee responded to the fears by saying there is no reason to alter the course of the Rio Olympics.
In a statement, the WHO, said: “Brazil is one of almost 60 countries and territories which to date report continuing transmission of Zika by mosquitoes.”
“People continue to travel between these countries and territories for a variety of reasons. The best way to reduce risk of disease is to follow public health travel advice.”