150 scientists, doctors and medical ethicists have signed a letter to the director of the World Health Organization, DR. Margaret Chan, calling for the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro to be moved or postponed.
The signatories maintain that the recent outbreak of Zika Virus in Brazil, which has already infected 120,000 people in that country alone, in conjunction with the Summer Olympics is a direct concern for global health. Rio De Janeiro itself has the second highest rate of Zika cases with 32,000.
Recent scientific studies have found that if the Zika Virus infects a pregnant women it can result in the child being born with various brain defects including microcephaly, a condition in which the child is born with an undersized head. The Brazilian government has already reported 1,800 confirmed cases of microcephaly and another 3,300 under investigation.
Many are beginning to suspect a link between the Zika Virus and Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which causes the body’s immune system to attack nerve cells, resulting in muscle weakness and sometime paralysis. These symptoms can last up to a month and results in the death of about 1 in 20 people.
The risk of Zika Virus is, however, relatively small to the average person, only resulting in a mild symptoms that can last up to a week. The scientists are far more worried about the 500,000 tourists who will be travelling to Rio de Janeiro and the potential they will have to carry the virus with them home, spreading it beyond the more than 60 nations it is already in.
The letter also states that the current program of killing the mosquito primarily responsible for the virus’s spread has been ineffective and that cases of infection have continued to increase since it began.
Additionally, Rio’s health system is not suited to make push against the virus any time soon, with Rio’s poor social and sanitary conditions requiring improvement more than anything else in order.
The letter ends with an Appendix on the troubling relationship between the WHO and the International Olympic Committee. In 2010 the two organizations signed an undisclosed Memorandum of Understanding and the WHO’s establishment of an advisory group which can “help in bidding for major events”.