WHO: Risk That The Olympics Will Further Spread Zika Virus Is “Very Low”

After convening a panel of experts to discuss the continuing spread of Zika, the World Health Organization reaffirmed that the virus is a public health emergency, but added that there’s a “low risk” of it spreading further if the Rio Olympic games go ahead as planned.

While the committee acknowledged that mass gatherings can have an amplification effect when it comes to spreading diseases, “the individual risks in areas of transmission are the same whether or not a mass gathering is conducted, and can be minimized by good public health measures,” WHO said.

(Previously: Here’s What’s Going On With The Rio Olympics & The Zika Virus)

Also, though it’s the summer games, it’s not the kind of weather in Brazil that mosquitoes enjoy, as August is one of the country’s coolest and driest months.

The panel concluded “that there is a very low risk of further international spread of Zika virus as a result of the Olympic and Paralympic Games as Brazil will be hosting the Games during the Brazilian winter when the intensity of autochthonous transmission of arboviruses, such as dengue and Zika viruses, will be minimal.”

The WHO committee was tasked with weighing the potential risks associated with Brazil hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer, after more than 200 bioethicists and health experts signed a letter calling for the WHO to recommend postponing or moving the events to keep the epidemic from spreading.

As a result of yesterday’s meeting, however, the panel says it hasn’t changed its mind on whether or not the Games should go ahead.

“The Committee reaffirmed its previous advice that there should be no general restrictions on travel and trade with countries, areas and/or territories with Zika virus transmission, including the cities in Brazil that will be hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” WHO said, noting that pregnant women are, as always, the exception. They’re advised not to travel to any area with Zika outbreaks.

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