U.S. health official says Zika not a reason to cancel Olympics

first_imgThe widespread Zika virus outbreak in Brazil does not poseenough of a threat to warrant canceling or putting off the Olympic Games set tobe held in Rio de Janeiro in August, a leading U.S. health official said onThursday.”There is no public health reason to cancel or delaythe Olympics,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention, said during a luncheon at The National Press Club inWashington.A controversial paper by a Canadian professor publishedearlier this month in the Harvard Public Health Review called for the Games tobe canceled or moved because it said they would likely speed up the spread ofZika throughout the world. Several health experts have disputed the report aslacking evidence for such a move.ZIKA NOT A BIG THREAT FOR ATHLETES”The risk to delegations going and athletes is notzero, but the risk of any travel isn’t zero. The risk is not particularly highother than for pregnant women,” Frieden said.Zika infection in pregnant women has been shown to be acause of the birth defect microcephaly and other serious brain abnormalities inbabies.The World Health Organization has also said there is strongscientific consensus that Zika can also cause Guillain-Barre, a rareneurological syndrome that causes temporary paralysis in adults.The connection between Zika and microcephaly first came tolight last fall in Brazil, which has confirmed more than 1,400 cases ofmicrocephaly that it considers to be related to Zika infections in the mothers.advertisementOLYMPICS NOT AT RISKPutting the Olympics risk in perspective, Frieden saidtravel to the Summer Games would represent less than one quarter of one percentof all travel to Zika affected areas.The CDC director called on Congress to deliver fundingneeded to fight Zika globally and to protect pregnant women in the UnitedStates and its territories, such as Puerto Rico, where officials expecthundreds of thousands of Zika cases.Frieden thanked German drugmaker Bayer AG for promising a”substantial” donation to help fight Zika in Puerto Rico. The virusis spread by mosquitoes and through unprotected sex with an infected man.With local U.S. mosquito season about to begin, Frieden saidthere was a narrow window of opportunity to mount an effective Zika preventionbattle. “That window is closing,” he said.last_img read more