An open letter addressed to the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Margaret Chan calls for the Brazil Olympic Games to be Postponed or Moved.

The Open Letter has four authors, the Prof. Amir Attaran (University of Ottawa), Prof. Arthur Caplan and Prof. Lee Igel (New York University) and Dr. Christopher Gaffney (University of Zurich). As of the writing of this piece, 152 scholars, scientists, and medical experts have signed the Open Letter.

“We are writing to express our concern about the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. WHO’s declaration of Zika as a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” coupled with new scientific findings that underscore the seriousness of that problem, call for the Rio 2016 Games to be postponed and/or moved to another location—but not cancelled—in the name of public health.”


Source: Open Letter to Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization

The Open Letter calls for the Rio Olympic Games to be postponed or moved due to the fears that the event could promote the spread of the Zika virus around the world. The letter mentions other previously canceled events, such as 1916, 1940, and 1944 Olympic Games. Other events that got themselves moved to other locations such as the Major League Baseball (Zika), the Africa Cup of Nations (Ebola) and the FIFA 2003 Women’s World Cup moved from China to the USA (SARS epidemic).


The letter mentions the greater risk of accelerating the spread of the Brazilian viral strain and that they are concerned with the fact the WHO might be rejecting these alternatives because of a conflict of interest due to the fact the WHO is an official partnership with the International Olympic Committee.

The open letter concludes by saying that not look for public health and ethical consequences “is irresponsible.”

“But our greater concern is for global health. The Brazilian strain of Zika virus harms health in ways that science has not observed before. An unnecessary risk is posed when 500,000 foreign tourists from all countries attend the Games, potentially acquire that strain, and return home to places where it can become endemic. Should that happen to poor, as-yet unaffected places (e.g., most of South Asia and Africa) the suffering can be great. It is unethical to run the risk, just for Games that could proceed anyway, if postponed and/or moved.”


Source: Open Letter to Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization

The Zika virus outbreak began in 2015 and spread to the neighboring countries. Earlier this year, with growing evidence that Zika could cause birth defects and neurological problems, the WHO declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.