The World Health Organization believes the Zika virus's spread will not be hastened by the influx of visitors to Rio for the Olympics

By Alex Heigl
Updated June 16, 2016 04:20 PM
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Credit: Ricardo Mazalan/AP

The World Health Organization has confirmed that the 2016 Olympics will not affect the spread of the Zika virus as much as previously anticipated.

However, the reality of their argument isn’t quite as positive as one would hope: Among the central points of their argument is that the virus has already spread to 60 countries, so postponing or moving the Olympics from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, would essentially be a futile move.

Further, the Games will take place in August, Brazil’s winter, so most of the mosquitos that would be carrying the virus will be dying off.

“According to a study done by the University of Cambridge, of the 500,000 foreign tourists who will come, only one will get the Zika virus, so it’s almost a zero risk,” Brazilian Health Minister Ricardo Barros said last week.

Claudia Codeco, a biologist studying mosquito-borne infections at Rio’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, told CNN her research suggested similar findings. “Zika is not a local problem anymore. This is not a problem of Rio de Janeiro or Brazil. This is already present in 60 countries,” she said. “So maybe at this time of the year, we should be paying more attention and giving advice to tourists that are going to the places where summer is beginning now.”

Joao Grangeiro, the chief medical expert for the 2016 Olympics, also took a relativist stance, comparing the Zika situation in 2016 to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, according to CNN. Only three foreign visitors out of 600,000 to the country were infected with dengue fever during the soccer tournament.

Twenty-six-thousand cases of the Zika virus have been reported in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, with the peak coinciding with the Carnival celebrations in February. However, as temperatures have cooled recently, reported cases have dropped, with only 702 cases confirmed in May.

Several athletes, like Serena Williams and Hope Solo, have expressed concerns about the virus ahead of the games. American cyclist Tejay van Garderen became the first American athlete to withdraw from the Games earlier this month over concerns about the Zika virus and its effects on his pregnant wife.