More than 100 prominent physicians, bioethicists and scientists from around the world posted a letter Friday urging World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan to exert pressure on Olympic authorities to move the Olympics from Rio de Janeiro or delay the Games because of public health concerns over the Zika virus.
Brazil, which is hosting the Olympics and the Paralympics, is at the epicenter of the rapidly evolving mosquito-borne epidemic.
The letter is signed by 150 individuals from more than a dozen countries, including Brazil, Japan, Israel, Russia, Sweden, South Africa and the United States. It calls on the WHO to convene an independent group to advise it and the International Olympic Committee, and for authorities to reconsider the decision to hold the Games in Rio.
“We are doing it to ask for an open, transparent discussion of the risks of holding the Olympics as planned in Brazil,” said Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University and one of the letter’s four authors, in an email explaining the reasoning behind the letter.
The group of scientists is not seeking “general assurance” from the WHO, Caplan said. Instead, they want “a frank discussion among independent experts,” he said. […]
In the most recent letter, the authors say that Rio’s public health system is so “severely weakened” as to make a last-minute push against the mosquito that transmits Zika impossible. Citing government data, the letter notes the increasing number of cases of dengue, a related virus spread by the same mosquitoes, that is considered a proxy for Zika.
In the specific neighborhood of the Olympic Park, Barra da Tijuca, there have been more dengue cases in the first quarter of 2016 than in all of 2015, the letter said.
“It is therefore imperative that WHO conducts a fresh, evidence-based assessment of Zika and the Games, and its recommendations for travelers,” the letter said. “Given the public health and ethical consequences, not doing so is irresponsible.” […]
Here’s a full list of the 150 people who signed the letter, in alphabetical order, and represent individuals, not their institutions: […]
150. Diana Zuckerman, president, National Center for Health Research, Washington, D.C. […]
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