WHO: Very little risk that Brazil’s Olympics will speed Zika’s spread

Olympic flag over Rio

The 2016 summer Olympics, to be held in Rio de Janeiro, aren’t likely to increase the global spread of Zika virus, according to the World Health Organization.


The Olympic and Paralympic Games probably won’t further the international spread of Zika virus, the World Health Organization concluded in a news conference June 14.

Data from past events, including previous Olympics and World Cup tournaments, suggest that mass gatherings don’t greatly increase the spread of diseases. In addition, the 2016 Olympics will take place in August during Brazil’s winter months, when mosquito-borne diseases aren’t so rampant. Brazil also is stepping up efforts to curb mosquito populations. According to WHO, both factors are likely to reduce Zika transmission during the games.

“Everything is being done to minimize what is already a low risk,” said Bruce Aylward, who heads WHO’s division on outbreaks and health emergencies.

Not all scientists are convinced. More than 200 scientists and doctors have now signed an open letter to WHO’s director calling for postponing the Olympics and Paralympics or moving them from Rio de Janeiro.

Meghan Rosen is a staff writer who reports on the life sciences for Science News. She earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology with an emphasis in biotechnology from the University of California, Davis, and later graduated from the science communication program at UC Santa Cruz.

More Stories from Science News on Health & Medicine