WHO: Very low risk Olympics will further spread Zika


The World Health Organisation (WHO) says athletes and fans heading to Brazil for the Rio Olympics are not likely to spur an international Zika outbreak and travel to countries dealing with the mosquito-borne virus should not be restricted.

The WHO on Tuesday reiterated its stance after a meeting of the emergency committee charged with assessing Zika's threat to public health globally.

While numerous countries have seen cases of the virus, which has been linked to birth defects and other medical issues, the focus of the statement was travel to and from Brazil for the Olympics and Paralympics.

While acknowledging the risk at hand, the committee "noted that the individual risks in areas of transmission are the same whether or not a mass gathering is conducted, and can be minimised by good public health measures."

With that in mind, it rejected calls to cancel or move the Games based on fears that infected persons might spread the virus throughout the world after they leave Brazil.

"The Committee concluded that there is a very low risk of further international spread of Zika virus as a result of the Olympic and Paralympic Games as Brazil will be hosting the Games during the Brazilian winter," the WHO wrote. 

"The Committee reaffirmed its previous advice that there should be no general restrictions on travel and trade with countries, areas and/or territories with Zika virus transmission, including the cities in Brazil that will be hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games."

The only specific travel recommendation was that pregnant women should not visit affected areas and "should ensure safe sexual practices or abstain from sex for the duration of their pregnancy" if their sexual partners travel to such areas.

In the big picture, the WHO said, the focus should be on education and prevention for those who will be in Zika-prone areas in the coming months.