WHO sup­ports Rio Games

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - SPORTS -

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.

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