Dr. Amir Attaran of the University of Ottawa and the Harvard Public Health Review writes on TIME.com that the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro should not proceed because of the Zika virus outbreak.
The Zika virus most recently forced the re-location of a two-game series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins that was set to be played in Puerto Rico. Players voted and told Major League Baseball that they were uncomfortable with playing in a country where the virus continues to spread.
The Zika infection was initially linked to pediatric microcephaly and brain damage, but then also showed signs and connections to Guillain-Barré syndrome and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can be fatal in some cases.
Dr. Attaran outlined several reasons why the Olympics are unsafe and the outbreak should be taken more seriously.
In February, the International Olympic Committee declared Rio a “safe environment” for the Games just before Brazil’s Ministry of Health declared Zika a notifiable disease. Rio de Janeiro is the most infected of all cities as 26,000 cases have been recorded. Attaran puts Rio “at the heart” of the Zika problem.
The virus has also reportedly evolved from its first-ever case in 1947 and the risk of microcephaly has increased.
There are also fears of the virus going global as 500,000 foreign tourists are expected to travel to Brazil for the Olympics. Some may get infected and then the virus, which can be sexually transmitted, could be spread upon return to home countries. A quick spread due to the tourism of the Olympics will only make inventing new technologies to stop it more difficult.
Attaran closes his argument by saying that not stopping the virus or Olympics goes against what the Summer Games stands for: “Olympism seeks to create … social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles”.
The only two Olympics to be relocated, as Attaran hopes the 2016 Games will be, were the 1976 and 1994 Winter Olympics. The ’76 Winter Olympics were moved to Innsbruck after Denver withdrew in 1972. The ’94 Winter Olympics were moved so that they would coincide with the Summer Games again.
“Nothing of the sort can be said for the world’s population whose health is at stake,” Attaran writes. “For while the financial victims can recover their losses or even go bankrupt and rebuild, for the global health victims there is no such thing as going “bankrupt” on a virus or pandemic.”