A day after 150 experts signed a letter written by such notable individuals as Prof. Amir Attaran with the University of Ottawa, Prof. Arthur Caplan with New York University, Dr. Christopher Gaffney with the University of Zürich and Prof. Lee Igel with New York University, to World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, the UN health agency responded Saturday by saying:

Aedes aegypti/CDC
Aedes aegypti/CDC

“Based on current assessment, cancelling or changing the location of the 2016 Olympics will not significantly alter the international spread of Zika virus.” They continue by saying, “Based on the current assessment of Zika virus circulating in almost 60 countries globally and 39 countries in the Americas, there is no public health justification for postponing or cancelling the games.”

They note that Brazil is 1 of almost 60 countries and territories which to date report continuing transmission of Zika by mosquitoes. People continue to travel between these countries and territories for a variety of reasons.

Instead, they offered the following public health advice:

WHO advises pregnant women not to travel to areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission. This includes Rio de Janeiro. Pregnant women’s sex partners returning from areas with circulating virus should be counselled to practise safer sex or abstain throughout the pregnancy.

Anyone considering travel to the Olympics should:

  • Follow the travel advice provided by their countries’ health authorities, and consult a health worker before travelling.
  • Whenever possible, during the day, protect themselves from mosquito bites by using insect repellents and by wearing clothing – preferably light-coloured – that covers as much of the body as possible.
  • Practise safer sex (for example, use condoms correctly and consistently) or abstain from sex during their stay and for at least 4 weeks after their return, particularly if they have had or are experiencing symptoms of Zika virus.
  • Choose air-conditioned accommodation (where windows and doors are usually kept closed to prevent the cool air from escaping, and mosquitoes cannot enter the rooms).
  • Avoid visiting areas in cities and towns with no piped water or poor sanitation (ideal breeding grounds of mosquitoes), where the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes is higher.

The letter to WHO expressed the following concerns and scientific evidence used to justify postponing and/or moving the Games to another location to include the microcephaly risk,  how highly affected Rio de Janiero by Zika and the debilitating health system there.