World health officials are urging International Olympic Committee members to either postpone or move this Summer’s 31st Olympiad due to mass Zika virus outbreaks. Eminent health expert and biologist Ammir Attaran staunchly warns a global spread of Zika virus could occur as a result of the Rio De Janeiro games.
The noted professor vehemently claims that 500,000-plus tourists and athletes visiting Brazil will spread the Zika virus in their native lands post-Olympics. Attaran pleaded with Olympic officials to heed the safety of not only the competing athletes and fans, but the global community.
“According to Brazil’s official data, Rio is not on the fringes of the outbreak, but inside its heart… By spreading the virus faster and farther, the Games steal away the very thing — time — that scientists and public health professionals need to build such defenses.”
Host country Rio De Janeiro is Brazil’s leader with 26,000 reported Zika virus cases. For this reason, many Olympic athletes have voiced outright concern over competing in 2016’s Olympic Games.
Most notably, United States Soccer star Hope Solo voiced outspoken reservations in participating during this summer’s games. Solo, 34, only decided recently to “begrudgingly” compete for her nation. In a statement released Tuesday, Solo stated, “I strongly believe that no athlete should be put into this position — to decide between your Olympic dreams and your own health.”
While Solo will still compete, world-class golfers Vijay Singh of Fiji and Australia’s Marc Leishman have declared they will not participate in the 2016 Olympics due to Zika virus concerns.
The former PGA Tour money winner spoke to Golf Digest concerning his decision to forgo this summer’s Olympics.
“I would like to play the Olympics, but the Zika virus, you know and all that crap.It wasn’t that difficult [a decision]. I feel bad, I wanted to play and finally decided against it.”
While Singh and a handful of other Olympic athletes have chosen to not compete, the International Olympic Committee has insisted there are no plans to either postpone or relocate the games. Officials for the IOC revealed these remarks to the BBC concerning their ultimate decision to move forward in light of Zika fears.
“The clear statements from WHO that there should be no restrictions on travel and trade means there is no justification for cancelling, delaying, postponing or moving the Rio Games. The IOC will continue to monitor the situation very closely and work with the WHO, and we’re confident as we’ve been advised by the experts that the situation will improve over the next three months.”
Even as the IOC has attempted to allay concerns regarding the Zika virus, many participants and health officials are still vexed over myriad health concerns that Zika raises. In addition to causing birth-defect disorders such as microcephaly and neurological defects, the virus can lead to Guillian Barre Syndrome in adults. This rare form of paralysis is sometimes fatal.
Adding to Zika-related trepidation, Ammir Attaran warned, “Zika infection is more dangerous, and Brazil’s outbreak more extensive, than scientists reckoned a short time ago.”
Normally considered a worldwide festival of joy, unity, and celebration, this August’s Olympic games have already been tarnished by the specter of the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
[Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images]