A group comprising over 150 medical experts has penned an urgent letter to the World Health Organization (WHO) urging it to have the Rio Olympics either postponed or relocated due to concerns of the Zika virus spreading.
The letter expresses that the virus has been spreading and that the games could be affected as well as resulting in certain athletes abstaining due to the nature of this virus.
"Currently, many athletes, delegations, and journalists are struggling with the decision of whether to participate in the Rio 2016 Games," the letter said. "We agree with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommendation that workers should "Consider delaying travel to areas with active Zika virus transmission". If that advice were followed uniformly, no athlete would have to choose between risking disease and participating in a competition that many have trained for their whole lives."
The greatest concern in the letter was that athletes could unknowingly contract the virus while in RIO and end up bringing it back to their origin nations upon return home, where it could incubate and spread.
"It is unethical to run the risk, just for Games that could proceed anyway, if postponed and/or moved," the letter advised.
The WHO has already stated that the Zika virus is an international health emergency. Carried by mosquitoes, it's already been detected in over 58 countries/territories, primarily those in Central America.
Zika is highly contagious and can result in a severe birth defect called microcephaly, which results in children being born with abnormally sized heads that are smaller than normal heads. The virus has also been found to cause Guillain-Barre, a neurological disease that ultimately leads to paralysis.
"WHO must revisit the question of Zika and postponing and/or moving the Games," the letter said. "We recommend that WHO convene an independent group to advise it and the IOC in a transparent, evidence-based process in which science, public health, and the spirit of sport come first. Given the public health and ethical consequences, not doing so is irresponsible."
You can learn more about the Zika virus including common FAQ here.