With debate growing over the safety of holding the Olympics in Brazil amid the ongoing Zika virus outbreak, the World Health Organization's Emergency Committee on Zika will meet in the coming weeks to evaluate the risks tied to going on with the Games in August, a WHO spokeswoman said on Friday.
“The Emergency Committee meeting will consider the situation in Brazil, including the question of the Olympics,” WHO spokeswoman Nyka Alexander told Reuters in response to a query.
WHO makes risk assessments of a public health issue and it would be up to the International Olympics Committee (IOC) to decide on holding the event in Rio de Janeiro, due to start on Aug. 5, she said.
“It is not within our mandate” to make decisions on holding the Olympic Games, Alexander said.
A spokesman for Rio 2016 said they continue to follow WHO recommendations on Zika.
Athletes will have to make their own decisions as to whether to risk Zika for the potential glory of Olympic gold. Cyclist Tejay Van Garderen this week withdrew from consideration for the U.S. team over concerns that the virus could present risks for his pregnant wife.
The virus can also be transmitted via unprotected sex with an infected man.
Dr David Heymann, chairman of the WHO committee of independent experts, told Reuters on Monday that postponing the Rio Olympics because of fears it could speed the spread of the Zika virus would give a “false” sense of security because travellers are constantly going in and out of Brazil.
It will be winter in Brazil when the Olympics begin, so the mosquitoes that carry the virus will be less abundant, WHO experts said.