Zika Virus Epidemic: Is WHO Risking Global Health After It Rejected Health Experts’ Appeal To Postpone Or Move Rio 2016 Olympics?

By John Drowne, Parent Herald May 28, 11:59 pm
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Despite being backed with several new scientific findings, the World Health Organization (WHO) has immediately rejected the appeal of 152 health experts to postpone or move the Rio 2016 Olympics due to Zika virus epidemic. The decision raised questions whether the specialized agency of the United Nations is risking global health in exchange of the highly anticipated international multi-sport event, which will take place on August 5 to 21.

The Appeal To Postpone Or Move Rio 2016 Olympics Due To Zika Virus Epidemic

In an open letter addressed to Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, some 152 health experts, composed of prominent scientists, physicians and bioethicists from around the world, appealed to the WHO to advise the Rio 2016 Olympics authorities to postpone or move the multi-sport event, which will be attended by foreign athletes, delegations, journalists and tourists. The health experts pointed out that Rio 2016 Olympics, if pursued, will pose unnecessary risks to global health due to the Zika virus epidemic in the country.

The health experts backed their appeal to postpone or move Rio 2016 Olympics with new scientific findings that showed that Brazil's Zika virus epidemic has "more serious medical consequences" than researchers previously knew. They also cited that Rio de Janeiro, which is one of the hardest-hit areas in Brazil, has ineffective mosquito-killing efforts and "severely weakened" health system.

"WHO must revisit the question of Zika and postponing and/or moving the Games," the health experts stated. "Given the public health and ethical consequences, not doing so is irresponsible."

WHO Rejects Health Experts' Appeal To Postpone Or Move Rio 2016 Olympics

BBC News reports that WHO immediately rejected the appeal of the health experts. The UN agency reasoned out that postponing Rio 2016 Olympics or moving it to another location will "not significantly alter" the Zika virus epidemic.

The immediate rejection of the appeal fueled concerns that WHO refused to acknowledge the global health risks in the incoming Rio 2016 Olympics due to a conflict of interest. The health experts mentioned on their open letter that WHO would possibly reject their appeal because of its decades-long partnership with the International Olympic Committee.

The health experts said that the Memorandum of Understanding between the two global organizations was never publicized. This has started to cast doubts on WHO's neutrality in assessing the global health risks in the incoming Rio 2016 Olympics.

Is WHO risking global health due to conflict of interest? Is it reasonable to reject the appeal of experts to postpone or move Rio 2016 Olympics due to Zika virus epidemic? Share your thoughts below.

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