Need not cancel Olympics due to Zika virus epidemic, says US Health official

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Need not cancel Olympics due to Zika virus epidemic, says US Health official

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Debarshee Mitra

05/27/2016

The Zika virus epidemic has cast a pall over the Rio Olympics, with contrasting reports over the possibility of the disease spreading across the world due to the event. A US CDC official has now trashed reports that the athletes are at risk from Zika and has questioned calls to cancel the Games.

"There is no public health reason to cancel or delay the Olympics," Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a luncheon at The National Press Club in Washington, reported Reuters.

The Zika infection, caused by the eponymous virus, affects pregnant women and causes intra-uterine infections that result in a condition called microcephaly–small sized heads associated with severe brain abnormalities.

Earlier this month, a controversial paper published in the Harvard Public Health Review had called for the games to be postponed or canceled citing the risk of the disease spreading across the world. However, multiple experts have questioned the claims and have expressed the opinion that the Olympics would cause no significant rise in the risk levels.

Putting the risk in perspective, Frieden said the number of travelers to the Olympics would represent less than 0.25% of all travel to Zika affected areas.

"The risk to delegations going and athletes is not zero, but the risk of any travel isn't zero. The risk is not particularly high other than for pregnant women," Frieden said.

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