Major League Baseball recently decided to move a pair of baseball games away from Puerto Rico due to the Zika virus. Should the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympic Games scheduled in Rio de Janeiro be moved or rescheduled because of the same virus?
A new paper published on the Harvard Public Health Review’s website makes the case the 2016 Rio games “must not go on.”
Using recent medical evidence and new data about the rapidly spreading disease, Amir Attaran, author of the report, uses five points to make his argument for postponing or moving the 2016 games (Olympics and Para-Olympics).
— Amir Attaran (@profamirattaran) May 8, 2016
The primary reason Attaran is sounding the alarm on the upcoming Olympic games: a spike in Zika infections in Brazil, especially in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
In January, the International Olympic Committee declared that Rio was a “safe environment.” However, new data shows a disturbing increase in the number of cases of the virus, with host city reporting 26,000 cases of the disease, the highest number of infections in any state in Brazil.
Attaran writes, “Rio is not on the fringes of the outbreak, but inside its heart.”
The second reason cited for delaying or changing the location of the 2016 Olympics, a lack of information about Zika. This version of the virus has been around for only three years and is showing signs of being much more dangerous than the 70-year-old version. Case in point, a 23-53 percent increase in cases of microcephaly (babies born with small heads and undeveloped brains).
The risk of accelerating Zika’s growth around the world is Attaran’s third point. While pointing out the inevitable global spread of Zika, the author believes holding the Olympic Games in the center of the outbreak will only expedite this reality. “It cannot possibly help when an estimated 500,000 foreign tourists flock into Rio for the Games, potentially becoming infected, and returning to their homes,” Attaran writes.
The fourth reason Attaran gives for postponing or moving the games — time. The author claims the potential global explosion of infections will severely hamper the current efforts to fight the virus. “Spreading the virus faster and farther, the Games steal away the very thing — time — that scientists and public health professionals need to build such defenses,” Attaran writes.
Finally, the paper wonders: “How socially responsible or ethical is it to spread disease?”
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