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As many as 150 top scientists from around the world Call for Rio Olympics to Be Moved Due to spread of Zika Virus

As many as 150 top scientists from around the world Friday called for the Rio Olympics to be moved or delayed because of the Zika outbreak.

"The Brazilian strain of Zika virus harms health in ways that science has not observed before," the scientists said in a letter to Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), BBC News reports. "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 … the suffering can be great," the letter said. "It is unethical to run the risk, just for Games that could proceed anyway, if postponed and/or moved."

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said earlier this month that it saw no reason to delay or move the games because of the Zika virus, which has been linked to serious birth defects.

The WHO also released guidelines saying that those attending the Olympics should avoid poor and overcrowded parts of Rio to minimize their chances of catching the virus — and the United Nations health agency has continued its warnings against pregnant women traveling to Zika-hit areas.

The Olympics will be held Aug. 5-21. The United States is scheduled to compete in Rio.

The scientists also cited the "historic turbulence in Brazil's economy, governance, and society at large" as other reasons for their position.

They noted that those circumstances are "not isolated problems, but context that makes the Zika problem all but impossible to solve with the Games fast approaching."

The scientists also said that WHO needed to revise its own guidelines on the virus.

"We recommend that WHO convene an independent group to advise it and the IOC in a transparent, evidence-based process in which science, public health, and the spirit of sport come first," the letter said. "Given the public health and ethical consequences, not doing so is irresponsible."


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