The World Health Organization's chief, Dr. Margaret Chan, says the agency is increasingly concerned about the Zika virus but there is no recommendation for canceling, postponing or moving the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this summer.
“The important point is, we have 59 countries reporting Zika infection,” Chan said. “You don't want to bring a standstill to the world's movement of people for many reasons. People go to travel because of tourism or to go to travel for studies or..because of business. So what is a proper way to deal with the risk? It's all about getting the best available evidence , share with them so that individuals or groups of people can take appropriate measures to mitigate, to reduce the risk. It's all about risk assessment through risk management.”
Symptoms for the virus can be mild upon infection but there are greater fears over long-term effects. Research has linked pregnant women and Zika virus to microcephaly, a birth defect that causes babies to be born with smaller-than-normal heads and could lead to shorter a lifespan.
Chan and WHO have issued recommendations for Olympic athletes and travelers to Brazil take cautious measures to prevent being bitten by the mosquitoes that spread Zika.
The latest uproar in concern comes less than a week after one doctor called for the postponement or cancelation of the Olympics due to the outbreak that could spread much faster after the Summer Games. The Olympics are expected to draw at least 500,000 travelers to Brazil, which increases fears about spreading the virus worldwide.
An ESPN poll of U.S. Olympians found that 99% of athletes were not planning on canceling their trip to Brazil over Zika. That poll was released before Major League Baseball pulled a two-game series out of Puerto Rico due to concerns by players.
In stranger measures to prevent the spread of the virus, Australian Olympic officials announced plans to supply their respective athletes with condoms that are designed to block transmission of the Zika virus.
The Olympics are set to open on Aug. 5.
- Chris Chavez