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Health experts: Move, postpone Rio summer Olympics over Zika

By Amy R. Connolly
A group of 150 health experts released a letter calling for the summer Olympic games to be postponed or moved from Rio de Janeiro over fears of the Zika virus. Photo courtesy CDC
A group of 150 health experts released a letter calling for the summer Olympic games to be postponed or moved from Rio de Janeiro over fears of the Zika virus. Photo courtesy CDC

WASHINGTON, May 27 (UPI) -- A group of 150 health experts released a letter calling for the summer Olympic games to be postponed or moved from Rio de Janeiro over fears of Zika virus exposure.

The scientists, doctors and medical ethicists said, in a letter directed to World Health Organization Director Dr. Margaret Chan, the new findings about Zika's link to birth defects and Guillain-Barre syndrome should be the catalyst to move or postpone the games to safeguard everyone involved. The group said it is not asking for the games, scheduled to begin in August, to be canceled.

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"Our greater concern is for global health. The Brazilian strain of Zika virus harms health in ways that science has not observed before. 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," the medical professionals wrote. "Should that happen to poor, as-yet unaffected places (e.g., most of South Asia and Africa) the suffering can be great. It is unethical to run the risk, just for Games that could proceed anyway, if postponed and/or moved."

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Thursday, Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said "there is no public health reason to cancel or delay the Olympics."

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Olympic officials have not commented on the letter. Earlier this month, Dr. Richard Budgett, chief medical officer for the Olympics, said WHO backed no restrictions on travel and trade, meaning "there is no justification for cancelling, delaying, postponing or moving the Rio Games."

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