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  • CDC Chief Says Zika Should Not Disrupt Rio Olympics


    (ATR) "We don’t see a public health reason to cancel, postpone or move the Olympics."
    CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden talks with the press (ATR)

    That's the bottom line on the threat of the Zika virus to the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, according to Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    Frieden explained the CDC's stance, which largely echoes that of the World Health Organization (WHO), at a luncheon for the Atlanta Press Club.

    He says "There are two issues that people raise about the Olympics. First is a risk of people going and the second is the risk the Olympics, because it is a global enterprise, would amplify the spread of Zika.

    "To take the first of those, our advice on travel is regardless of whether you’re going to a wedding, for business or the Olympics, if you’re pregnant you shouldn’t go. That’s the only group that we would have specific advice that we would recommend that you not go.

    "I think you have to step back and say anytime you travel there’s risk. The leading thing that kills Americans traveling around the world – car crashes.

    "So whether it’s food poisoning, dengue or malaria, there are risks to travel. You make a decision every time you travel that the benefits are largely greater than the risks. The risks of Zika are risks to pregnant women and that’s what we have to minimize.

    "The second issue, will this amplify Zika… too late for that, first off.

    "It’s already all over the world and the number of people going to the Olympics account for less than 0.25 percent of all travel to Zika-affected areas. So even if the Olympics didn’t exist, 99.75 percent plus of that risk would continue."

    The WHO currently also has a travel advisory for pregnant women coming to Brazil due to the outbreak, but an emergency panel will meet next week to review the body’s travel guidance for the Games. Zika has shown to cause microcephaly in the fetuses of pregnant women. Microcephaly is caused when the brain of an unborn child is not fully developed.

    The WHO this week came out with new guidelines calling for people living in Zika-affected areas "be correctly informed and oriented to consider delaying pregnancy" to avoid the possibility of having babies with birth defects. 

    The CDC has so far not added that latest WHO change to its guidelines. 

    When asked by Around the Rings if there was anything that could change the CDC's stance on Zika and the Olympics, Frieden replied “Well, if we had a different virus spreading there, I guess that would make us reconsider it. But right now I can’t see a scenario to suggest" any reason to reconsider the current guidelines.

    Brazil's Minister of Health agrees with Frieden's belief that there is no public health reason to cancel, postpone or move the Games from Rio.

    Ricardo Barros told reporters on Friday (June 10) "We do not consider the possibility of postponement of the Games. The estimate is less than one case [of Zika] in 500,000 tourists planned for the period of the Olympics."

    He added that the number of dengue and Zika cases in Brazil is in decline. Barros says there were around 2,000 cases of Zika in May, down from 16,059 cases in February.

    "We have absolute trust in the numbers. The suspected cases of Zika are being reported correctly."

    Barros also says that there is a Zika vaccine that will be ready to test in November.

    As for this August, Barros says "The health network is ready, we have ambulances available and  beds in Rio de Janeiro. We have the capacity of 32,000 health professionals trained to deal with cases and symptoms of Zika."

    Written by Gerard Farek

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