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Updated 8:44 AM EDT, Wed, Aug 18, 2021

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More Than 100 Scientists Support Moving Rio Olympics due to Outbreak of Zika Virus

Brazil continues to battle against the Zika Virus as the Olympics comes to Rio later this year.

(Photo : Mario Tama) Brazil continues to battle against the Zika Virus as the Olympics comes to Rio later this year.

Despite the World Health Organization's (WHO) rejection of calls to move or postpone the Rio Olympics 2016 due to the Zika Outbreak, more than 100 leading scientists believe that hosting the games would be 'unethical' due to health risks. 

In an open letter to the World Health Organization, leading health experts from Harvard, Yale, Oxford, and many other prestigious institutions wrote that in light of new scientific findings, not postponing or moving the event would pose a great threat to the world.

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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. 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," the letter reads.

The outbreak of the Zika virus started in Brazil just about a year ago. Today, it has spread to over 60 countries. While the symptoms of the Zika virus are mild, experts claim that it causes birth defects among babies, causing them to have an abnormally small head and make them likely to contract a lethal neurological syndrome during adulthood.

The virus also causes the softening of bones in the skull and makes it difficult for some infants to survive their primary years.

Between February to August 2015, the Brazilian Health Ministry discovered over 90,000 cases of the Zika Virus, with over 4,900 newborns with Zika-linked defects.

The number of cases is only growing as time goes on, and with the Olympics coming up, there are fears the Zika virus will spread at a faster pace.

The Head of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Dr. Tom Frieden claims that "There is no public health reason to cancel or delay the Olympics."

The letter from the scientists highlighted the history of collaboration between the WHO and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The letter claims that the two organizations are too close for comfort and expresses worry over the idea that the WHO would be unable to be impartial regarding public health concerns and the Olympics.

While the Olympics has never been moved for public health reasons, many other major sporting events have shifted venues in the past. For example, the FIFA 2003 Women's World Cup was relocated from China to the US due to the SARS epidemic.

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