WHO supports Rio Games
BERLIN — The World Health Organization says there is “no public health justification” for postponing or cancelling the Rio Summer Olympics because of the Zika outbreak in Brazil.
The assessment, in a statement early Saturday, came a day after 150 health experts issued an open letter to the U.N. health agency calling for the games to be delayed or relocated “in the name of public health.”
Friday’s letter cited recent scientific evidence that the Zika virus causes severe birth defects, most notably babies born with abnormally small heads. In adults, it can cause neurological problems, including a rare syndrome that can be fatal or result in temporary paralysis.
The authors also noted that despite increased efforts to wipe out the mosquitoes that spread Zika, the number of infections in Rio de Janeiro have gone up rather than down.
The experts came from more than two dozen countries in fields including public health, bioethics and pediatrics, and included former White House science adviser Dr. Philip Rubin.
WHO, however, said “based on current assessment, cancelling or changing the location of the 2016 Olympics will not significantly alter the international spread of Zika virus.”
Several public health academics have previously warned that having hundreds of thousands of people travel to the games in Brazil will inevitably lead to the births of more brain-damaged babies and speed up the virus’ global spread.