WHO emergency panel on Zika to meet next week, review Olympics guidance

An aedes aegypti is seen on a plant in the Lab of Biomedicine at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 2, 2016.
An aedes aegypti is seen on a plant in the Lab of Biomedicine at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 2, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

GENEVA (REUTERS, AFP) - The World Health Organisation's (WHO) Emergency Committee on Zika will hold a regular meeting early next week to review its recommendations including regarding the Rio Olympics, a WHO spokesman said on Tuesday (June 7).

The independent experts, who last convened on March 8, will "look at evidence around the Olympics and most likely review the travel guidance around that", WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a news briefing. The date will be announced shortly.

Scientists are telling the United Nations health agency that the risk of global spread of the mosquito-borne virus is "not significantly higher" due to the Games that start on Aug 5, he added.

Experts say Zika is to blame for a surge in cases in Latin America of microcephaly - a serious birth defect in which babies are born with unusually small heads and brains.

 

The WHO had previously rejected a call from more than 200 international doctors to change the timing or location of the Rio Games, saying shifting the Games would not substantially alter the risks of Zika spreading globally.

Concerns, however, have been mounting since host country Brazil has been the hardest-hit since Zika began spreading in South America last year, with nearly 1,300 babies having been born there with irreversible brain damage since then.

The virus, which is mainly spread by two species of Aedes mosquito, but also through sexual contact, has also been linked to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal neurological disorder.