There are a lot of issues in Brazil that could make a would be traveler to take pause about whether it’s a good idea to head to Rio for the games–political upheaval, poor sanitation and waterborne illness and violent crime, among other issues.

Aedes aegypti Image/CDC
Aedes aegypti

The latter so much so that Brazilian soccer legend Rivaldo had warned tourists last week to skip the Rio 2016 Olympics due to concerns of violence: “Things are getting uglier here every day. I advise everyone with plans to visit Brazil for the Olympics in Rio — to stay home. You’ll be putting your life at risk here. This is without even speaking about the state of public hospitals and all the Brazilian political mess. Only God can change the situation in our Brazil.”

And then there is Zika.

In early February, two NYU professors, including renown bioethicist, Dr Art Caplan concluded in their Forbes article— “The IOC needs to either move the Games, postpone them, or cancel them. Prevention is the best course in the face of a serious threat to humanity.”

Most recently, a piece by Amir Attaran, Professor of Law and Medicine, University of Ottawa in the Harvard Public Health Review emphatically proclaims the Rio de Janeiro’s 2016 Olympic Games must not proceed.

He lists five reasons: Rio de Janeiro is more affected by Zika than anyone expected, rendering earlier assumptions of safety obsolete, the viral strain that recently entered Brazil is clearly new, different, and vastly more dangerous than “old” Zika, the inevitable global Zika spread, the already-urgent job of inventing new technologies to stop it becomes harder and finally he questions the IOC is being “socially responsible or ethical” by risking the spread of Zika worldwide.


However, not everyone is buying the proposed dangers. In a Lancet Infectious Diseases editorial last week, the author makes the following arguments leading to the conclusion– “Zika virus represents a minimal threat to games visitors.”

The author writes of four lines of evidence that the risk is low: The Zika virus outbreak in Brazil and the associated excess of microcephaly cases are concentrated in the Northeast Region (92% of confirmed cases), well away from Rio in the Southeast Region; the risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) from Zika is no higher than from campylobacter infection; the games will take place at a time unsuitable for the Aedes aegypti mosquito vectors of dengue and Zika viruses and athletes and spectators are likely to spend their time in places purged of mosquito breeding sites and sprayed heavily with insecticide.

The World Health Organization recently released a statement on Zika and the Olympics which offered recommendations for visitors and athletes and continues to monitor the situation in Brazil.