The World Health Organisation isn’t in favour of cancelling or postponing the 2016 Olympics.
In a new statement released Tuesday, the organisation said “there is a very low risk of further international spread of Zika virus” because of the games, but women who are pregnant are advised not to attend the games or travel to areas with ongoing Zika transmission.
Here’s the WHO’s rationale (emphasis ours):
“The Committee concluded that there is a very low risk of further international spread of Zika virus as a result of the Olympic and Paralympic Games as Brazil will be hosting the Games during the Brazilian winter when the intensity of autochthonous transmission of arboviruses, such dengue and Zika viruses, will be minimal and is intensifying vector-control measures in and around the venues for the Games which should further reduce the risk of transmission.”
Essentially, because it will be the winter in Brazil, there won’t be as much local transmission of Zika and other viruses, including dengue by mosquitoes. So, the WHO noted, it shouldn’t be much of a problem as long as there are good prevention measures in place.
Zika, which is transmitted mainly via mosquitoes, has been spreading around the Americas over the last year. Once infected with Zika, only about 20% of people ever show symptoms, which most commonly include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. There is no vaccine or treatment available for the virus. One reason Zika is troubling is because it is a cause of birth defects including microcephaly (a condition where the baby’s head is abnormally small) in babies whose mothers have had Zika. The virus also been linked to a neurological condition called Guillain-Barré Syndrome.
The WHO did recommend that pregnant women should not travel to areas with Zika transmission, and, since the virus can be sexually transmitted, to refrain from having sex with their partners who travel to areas with Zika. For the most part, the best way to avoid coming in contact with the mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus is to wear long sleeves and pants, and use repellent and mosquito nets.
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