By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Despite concerns expressed by a group of scientists and doctors about the threat of the spreading of the Zika virus during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a statement over the weekend where it reiterates that there is no public health justification for postponing or cancelling the games.
“Based on current assessment, cancelling or changing the location of the 2016 Olympics will not significantly alter the international spread of Zika virus,” said the press release issued by the WHO after receiving an open letter from 150 scientists and doctors urging for the postponement or the moving of the Games to another location.
According to the WHO, Brazil is one of almost sixty countries and that report continuing transmission of Zika by mosquitoes. According to the entity, the best way to reduce risk of disease is to follow the public health travel advice.
Yet the group voicing the concern says that many athletes and delegations are currently struggling with the decision of whether to attend the Games at all. If there were a delay or a move of venue for the Games “no athlete would have to choose between risking disease and participating in a competition that many have trained for their whole lives”.
Those worried about the disease say that the hundreds of thousands of travelers coming to Rio in August and September, for the Olympic and Paralympic Games could also go back home carrying the virus and spreading the Zika to even more places around the globe.
Brazil’s Health Ministry, however, say the number of Zika contaminations is likely to decrease significantly until August, due to the fact that in the Southern Hemisphere it is winter season in the Southern Hemisphere and mosquitos usually die off by July. “The period in which the Olympics will be held in Brazil is not endemic to transmission of diseases caused by Aedes aegypti, as Zika, dengue and chikungunya,” stated a note released by the Ministry on Saturday.
In 2015, says the note, August was the month with the lowest incidence of dengue cases in the country. The Zika virus has been suspected in at least 4,700 microcephaly cases across the country.