There have been no confirmed reports of Zika infection among people who attended the Olympic Games, the World Health Organization said Friday, saying the good news to date justifies their decision not to interfere with the event in hard-hit Brazil.
For months, pundits and scientists worried that holding the games as planned would exacerbate the Zika outbreak, which has been linked to a sharp increase in the rate of babies born with abnormally small heads, or “microcephaly,” in Brazil and other Latin American countries.
More than 100 doctors and scientists urged the WHO in May to use its clout to either delay the games or move them out of Rio de Janeiro.
But the global health arm of the U.N. resisted, saying visitors to the games would account for a mere fraction of global travel to Zika-affected countries, and that the Brazilian winter would knock out mosquitoes carrying the disease.
“To date, there have been no reports of confirmed cases of Zika virus among people who attended the games, both during the games and since their return,” WHO said in a statement after the fourth meeting of its emergency committee on the Zika virus.
However, it said the outbreak remains an international health emergency that’s spread to more than 70 countries — case counts are mounting in places as far apart as Florida and Singapore — and poses a series of unknowns.
Among other things, the panel wants to know learn more about Zika’s ability to persist in the body, how it is transmitted and how it affects children born with defects over the long term.
“Having considered the evidence presented, the committee agreed that due to continuing geographic expansion and considerable gaps in understanding of the virus and its consequences, Zika virus infection and its associated congenital and other neurological disorders continues to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” the WHO said.
However, it said countries should not impose general bans on travel or trade with Zika-affected countries, nor should people avoid the Paralympic Games in Rio from Sept. 7-18.
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.