An open letter from health experts was sent to Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General, WHO on May 30, 2016. In this letter a group of health experts voiced their concerns about the Summer Olympics, the Paralympics and Zika Virus. They have asked that the games be postponed and/or moved to another location, “in the name of public health.”
U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen also wrote a letter to Dr. Chan voicing concerns about the Zika Virus and the Summer Olympics. In response, Dr. Chan announced that she has directed the WHO’s Zika Emergency Committee to evaluate the risks of holding the Summer Games as currently scheduled. (Letter Dated June 1, 2016)
Dr. Chan wrote, “Given the current level of international concern, I have decided to ask members of the Zika Emergency Committee to examine the risks of holding the Olympic Summer Games as currently scheduled. The experts, well-versed in travel medicine, the epidemiology of vector-borne diseases, seasonal patterns of mosquito-borne infections, and risks communications, will meet shortly. Their advice to me will be immediately made public on our web site together with the names and affiliations of the experts.”
On May 28, 2016 the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a news release stating, “Based on the current assessment of Zika virus circulating in almost 60 countries globally and 39 countries in the Americas, there is no public health justification for postponing or cancelling the games. WHO will continue to monitor the situation and update our advice as necessary.”
WHO is advising pregnant women NOT to travel to areas where the Zika Virus transmission has been identified – this includes Rio de Janeiro. WHO also recommends that pregnant women’s sex partners returning from these areas should practice safe sex or abstain throughout the pregnancy.
WHO recommendations for those who will be travelling to Brazil for the Summer Olympics:
- Follow the travel advice of your country’s health authorities. See your physician before travel
- Throughout the day use insect repellents, wear light-colored clothing-covering as much as your body as possible.
- Practice safe sex (Use condoms correctly and consistently) or abstain from sex during your stay and for at least 8 weeks after your return (especially if your experiencing symptoms of the Zika virus)
- Stay in air conditioned accommodations if possible.
- Avoid visiting areas where there is not piped water or poor sanitation. (Risk of a mosquito bite is greater in these areas)
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