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Spread of Zika Virus Means That Rio de Janeiro’s 2016 Olympic Games Must Not Proceed

Spread of Zika Virus Means That Rio de Janeiro’s 2016 Olympic Games Must Not Proceed

Written by Amir Attaram, DPhil, LLB, MS. Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

Summarized by Conor Bryant


There are five reasons the Olympic games should not take place in Rio de Janeiro this year.

The first begins back when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) declared Rio a “safe environment” for the Games in January. Brazil’s Ministry of Health temporized until February to declare Zika a notifiable disease and began counting cases. Rio now has 26,000 cases, the most in any state of Brazil, and the fourth highest incident rate (157 in every 100,000 people). The same mosquito that transmits dengue, Aedes aegypti, which tend to dramatically decrease in the winter months, July to September, transmits Zika. This cannot be assumed however because Rio has never faced the Zika virus in over the winter.

The second reason is that although Zika is not a new disease, it is very different than the last Zika first discovered in the 1940s. Zika surely causes microcephaly, and is suggestive of “fetal brain disruption sequence” in developing brains of fetuses. It is now also linked to increasing adults chances of contracting Guillain-Barré disease, a disease in which your immune system attacks your nerves, by 60 fold.

Thirdly, although foreign travel to Brazil during the Olympics may not drastically cause globalization of the disease, it will certainly not help. An estimated 500,000 foreigners will attend the games, many of whom are higher up in their respective social classes.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.