Zika concerns, but WHO says Rio Olympic Games must go on

The World Health Organisation is increasingly concerned about the Zika virus but does not recommend cancelling or postponing the Olympic Games in Brazil this summer.

The organisation’s director general, Dr Margaret Chan, said: “The more we learn about Zika, the more worried we get about it.”

She added that she would be going to the Games in Rio de Janeiro herself.

Chan noted that although Zika has been around for decades, it is only recently that the virus has been proven to cause severe birth defects and neurological problems — including in newborn children.

She reiterated the UN health agency’s advice that pregnant women should not travel to Brazil, which has by far the biggest number of Zika cases.

She said the agency was recommending that athletes and travellers to Rio take measures to prevent being bitten by the mosquitoes that spread Zika. But she did not see a reason why the Olympics — which are expected to draw about 500,000 people to Brazil — should be moved.

She said: “You don’t want to bring a standstill to the world’s movement of people. This is all about risk assessment and risk management.”

Chan said she agreed with the WHO’s zika response chief Bruce Aylward, who said earlier this year Rio will host a “fantastic” Games.


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