On SiriusXM POTUS’s Michael Smerconish Show Thursday, Dr. Art Caplan of the NYU Langone Medical Center urged the Brazilian government and International Olympic Committee to delay the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, warning that tourists will not attend the events due to Latin America’s Zika virus pandemic.
“Are you really going to try to run the Olympics this August in the middle of a public health emergency when the country can’t afford to finish the buildings, and has got to take on the mosquitos?” Caplan asks, adding the question of what family will say, “Let’s round up the kids and go watch discus in the Zika epidemic?”
Such a proposition would be like a family saying, “Let’s visit Chernobyl to enjoy the Olympics!” he adds.
In a Forbes column co-authored with Lee H. Igel, Caplan calls hosting the games in Rio de Janeiro aware of the Zika risk “irresponsible,” noting that several athletes have already begun taking precautionary measures against the mosquitos. “The IOC needs to either move the Games, postpone them, or cancel them. Prevention is the best course in the face of a serious threat to humanity,” they write.
The Brazilian government has not made any indication it is considering postponing the games. Instead, officials have announced a number of precautionary measures to keep venues safe. Last week, over 3,000 health workers fumigated the Sambadrome, the venue that will host most of the Olympic Games’ major events, and officials have vowed to execute daily inspections for mosquito nests at all venues. The medical director of the event, Dr. Joao Grangeiro, urged nations not to keep their athletes from participating.
“The athletes are not at risk… We will not have an epidemic or pandemic situation. We can’t say we won’t have any cases (during the games) but we see this as a minimal risk,” he said.
“We remain confident that there will be a safe environment for successful and enjoyable Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” the International Olympic Committee said in a statement, echoing Brazilian officials.
Brazil has also not canceled other major tourist attractions, like this week’s Carnaval. Carnaval is a week of street festivals known for its extravagant outfits and loud music. While some have launched Zika awareness campaigns in the midst of Carnaval events, most major cities have not canceled their events.
The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak of Zika in the Western Hemisphere a “public health emergency.” Experts at the National Institutes of Health have deemed the virus outbreak a “pandemic.”
While 80 percent of Zika patients are asymptomatic, and adults with Zika often experience only mild symptoms, researchers have found the virus to have a devastating effect on fetuses when a pregnant mother contracts it. Brazilian Health Minister Marcelo Castro has said there is “no doubt” that Zika is tied to microcephaly, a condition in which an infant’s skull is too small for his or her brain, causing severe neurological defects. Brazil has recorded over 4,000 cases of microcephaly since medical experts confirmed the presence of the virus in April 2015.