World Health Organization Finally Promises Zika Virus Probe Ahead Of 2016 Rio Olympics

The World Health Organization has consistently recommended that the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro be held in August as planned, despite the outbreak of a mosquito-borne virus called the Zika virus in South America which can result in serious birth defects, particularly microcephaly, when contracted by pregnant women. After pressure from scientists and politicians, the World Health Organization has finally promised to officially investigate whether the 2016 Rio Olympics would accelerate the spread of the Zika virus and the resulting Zika fever.


The World Health Organization surprised many when it continued to recommend no change to the planned schedule of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio even after 150 health experts publicly signed on to an open letter asking the World Health Organization to either move or postpone the games to prevent the spread of the Zika virus.

The World Health Organization, as previously reported by the Inquisitr, merely recommended in late May that pregnant women not attend the Summer Olympics, despite the fact that the Zika virus is sexually transmitted — quite possibly even through oral sex — and could easily be brought back home to pregnant women via their sexual partners who attend the games. The World Health Organization said that to remedy this, people attending the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio should practice safe sex for at least one month following the games.


As of June 3, the World Health Organization has seemingly acquiesced to studying the issue further, after accusations of “unethical” ties to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that could be influencing their official recommendation. BBC Sport reports that the organization will in fact conduct an examination.

“[The World Health Organization] said it planned to hold another emergency committee meeting in June, when it would discuss the Olympics, and added it would make its report public.”

The Zika virus has made headlines in the United States this week because the United States military has confirmed in a Pentagon health report that was published on Friday that at least 11 troop members were infected with the Zika virus this year alone. According to USA Today, the Pentagon report also stated that four dependents of military members — i.e. either spouses or children — have contracted the Zika virus since the beginning of 2016, as have two military retirees. Nearly all of the infected people traveled to countries where the spread of Zika is already known to be extensive. Four in this group of 17 were women, but no one is or was pregnant. The group included four soldiers, three Airmen, a Marine, and three members of the Coast Guard.

The World Health Organization’s attempts to quell worry with regard to the 2016 Rio Olympics potentially increasing the spread of the Zika virus have been bolstered by confident commentary from the current director of the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC), Dr. Tom Frieden. Frieden says that 80 percent of Zika cases are asymptomatic, and the 20 percent of cases that produce symptoms of Zika fever such as fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis usually clear up in a few days to a week. Rare cases of Zika-related Guillain-Barre syndrome are a possibility, but very uncommon.


An American cyclist, Tejay van Garderen, has stated that he will not be competing in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio because his wife is pregnant and he feels the risks are too great. Golfers Vijay Singh of Fiji and Marc Leishman of Australia have also said that they will not compete in Rio because of the Zika virus.

The United Kingdom may also lose their Olympic tennis champion Andy Murray, who told BBC Radio 5 on May 30 that he is undecided about whether to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics, and will be consulting professionals and weighing medical advice before making a decision.

[Image courtesy of Mario Tama/Getty Images]