WHO: Rio Olympics Pose “Very Low Risk” of Spreading Zika

World Health Organization concludes the events are unlikely to worsen the viral outbreak.

Jun 15, 2016
Tanya Lewis

FLICKR, IAN BURTThe World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday (June 14) released a statement saying that the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this August need not be postponed or canceled because of the ongoing Zika outbreak. According to the WHO, the events pose a “very low risk” of spreading the virus internationally, BuzzFeed News reported.

“The risk is already low, and it will be very low [during the Olympics],” committee chairman David Heymann of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine told reporters during a news briefing, according to BuzzFeed.

Before the briefing, a WHO Emergency Committee met to evaluate the risks of Zika transmission during mass gatherings including the Rio Olympics. The committee reiterated its previous conclusion that the virus represents a “public health emergency of international concern,” but said that the Olympics pose no additional threat to public health.

“They are betting on the weather, responsible behavior by visitors, and a low sexual transmission rate,” bioethicist Arthur Caplan of the New York University told STAT News. Caplan was among 200 academics who signed a petition in May, calling for the games to be postponed or moved.

The event will be held during Brazil’s winter, when mosquitoes are less prevalent, The Washington Post reported. In addition, the country has taken measures to control mosquito populations and distribute condoms to prevent sexual transmission of the virus, according to BuzzFeed.

The committee’s declaration comes less than a week after the WHO released a recommendation that people who live in Zika-affected areas consider delaying getting pregnant, while emphasizing that this is a personal choice.