By Conor Bryant
There are five reasons the Olympic games should not take place in Rio de Janeiro this year.
The first begins back when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) declared Rio a “safe environment” for the Games in January. Brazil’s Ministry of Health temporized until February to declare Zika a notifiable disease and began counting cases. Rio now has 26,000 cases, the most in any state of Brazil, and the fourth highest incident rate (157 in every 100,000 people). The same mosquito that transmits dengue, Aedes aegypti, which tend to dramatically decrease in the winter months, July to September, transmits Zika. This cannot be assumed however because Rio has never faced the Zika virus in over the winter.
The second reason is that although Zika is not a new disease, it is very different than the last Zika first discovered in the 1940s. Zika surely causes microcephaly, and is suggestive of “fetal brain disruption sequence” in developing brains of fetuses. It is now also linked to increasing adults chances of contracting Guillain-Barré disease, a disease in which your immune system attacks your nerves, by 60 fold.
Thirdly, although foreign travel to Brazil during the Olympics may not drastically cause globalization of the disease, it will certainly not help. An estimated 500,000 foreigners will attend the games, many of whom are higher up in their respective social classes. These people will choose to put themselves at risk of contracting the virus, however, it will be the masses of the native country that will truly be affected by the spreading of this disease. Particularly in countries such as Nigeria, India, or Indonesia where treatment of the virus would be much worse than even in Brazil.
Fourthly, science will fast track towards finding a resistance to the disease, whether that be through means of a vaccine, antiviral drug, insecticide, or genetically-engineered mosquito. By globalizing the virus, this will dramatically decrease the time scientists have to study and create an effective resistance to the virus.
Fifthly, the IOC writes that “Olympism seeks to create … social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles”, but is not being concerned with the spread of this malicious disease socially responsible or ethical?
There is room for flexibility. There are operational Olympic venues in London, Beijing, Athens and Sydney. The moving of these games may create financial burdens on the investors of the games, but this is a problem in which they can recover from. The recovery from a potential international epidemic may prove detrimental to the safety of our species. Also, the moving of the games could give rise to the first truly “Global Olympics”, which would certainly make history.
The IOC and the World Health Organization (WHO) seem to be in deep denial. The IOC’s most senior member mocked the virus as “a manufactured crisis” for anyone but pregnant women. Even worse, the WHO has never issued an official statement on Zika and the Olympics.
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