Shaheen: Will Rio Games Cause a Worldwide Zika Outbreak?

Senator wants World Health Organization to investigate possibility as Olympics near in heart of Zika zone

The gymnast Rebecca Andrade leads the Olympic torch during Day 2 of the Olympic Flame torch relay on May 4 in Anapolis, Brazil. (Getty Images)
The gymnast Rebecca Andrade leads the Olympic torch during Day 2 of the Olympic Flame torch relay on May 4 in Anapolis, Brazil. (Getty Images)
Posted May 17, 2016 at 4:10pm

Senate Foreign Relations member Jeanne Shaheen , D-N.H., wants the World Health Organization to probe whether holding the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil would trigger a worldwide Zika virus outbreak.  

Shaheen wrote Margaret Chan , World Health Organization director general, to ask for a soup-to-nuts review of public health risks posed if hundreds of thousands of athletes and fans attend the games in the heart of the Zika zone.  

[Related: D.C. Loses 2024 Olympics Bid] “The Olympic Games is a global event that brings citizens and communities together from around the world,” the senator wrote. “But I question whether gathering thousands of athletes and hundreds of thousands of spectators in a country where nearly 2 million people have been infected with Zika is safe for our global health.”  

Athletes, spectators and the public deserve to understand the personal and global health risks associated with holding the games in Brazil ,” Shaheen added. “All of the efforts underway to prevent Zika are at risk of being undone if the Olympic Games spurs a global outbreak.”  

Up to half a million spectators alone could descend on Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics, potentially taking the mosquito-borne disease back home. Zika is a virus that can cause birth defects and other conditions in the unborn, affect pregnant women, and cause neurological issues in adults.   

Contact Bennett at johnbennett@cqrollcall.com.