Wednesday April 25, 2018

Zika Threat: WHO rejects the call to postpone or move Olympics from Rio

The letter to WHO is signed by 150 international scientists, doctors and medical ethicists from such institutions as Oxford University and Harvard and Yale universities in the United States

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FILE - A municipal worker prepares insecticide to be sprayed at Sambodrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jan. 26, 2016. The Sambadrome will be the site of the archery competition during the Rio Olympics. Image source: Reuters
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  • Zika virus also is linked to serious birth defects
  • The outbreak began in Brazil a year ago in 2015
  • Abnormal small heads are seen in newborn babies affected with the virus

Good news for people who are eagerly waiting for 2016 Olympics. The World Health Organization (WHO) has rejected a call to move or postpone this summer’s Rio Olympic Games over the Zika outbreak, reported BBC.

Zika virus also is linked to serious birth defects. WHO said that delaying the Olympics or shifting it from Rio would “not significantly alter” the spread of the virus.

Renowned scientists from all over the world wrote an open letter to WHO saying that the global health body should go through the new Zika guidance and that the new findings about the virus has made it “unethical” for the Games to go ahead.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it sees no reason to delay or move the Games because of the mosquito-borne disease.

More than 60 countries and territories are continuing with the transmission, while the  outbreak began in Brazil a year ago.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden speaks at the National Press Club in Washington on the latest research and forecasts on the Zika virus, May 26, 2016. Image source: AP
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden speaks at the National Press Club in Washington on the latest research and forecasts on the Zika virus, May 26, 2016. Image source: AP

While mild symptoms are seen in people affected with Zika, in the letter, the experts mention it causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and may also cause a rare and sometimes fatal neurological syndrome in adults.

This letter is signed by 150 international scientists, doctors and medical ethicists from such institutions as Oxford University and Harvard and Yale universities in the United States.

They cite the failure of a mosquito-eradication programme in Brazil, and the country’s “weakened” health system as reasons to postpone or move the Olympics in “the name of public health”.

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STUDY: Lakes on Mars dried up 3.5bn years ago

A study reveals that lakes on Mars dried up 3.5bn years ago.

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An image of Mars.
Mars. Pixabay

The discovery of cracks on the surface of Mars by NASA’s Curiosity rover in early 2017 are evidence of lakes that likely dried up 3.5 billion years ago, confirmed a study, revealing details about the red planet’s ancient climate.

In early 2017 scientists announced the discovery of possible desiccation cracks in Gale Crater, which was filled by lakes 3.5 billion years ago.

“We are now confident that these are mudcracks,” said lead author Nathaniel Stein, a geologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, US.

Since desiccation mudcracks form only where wet sediment is exposed to air, their position closer to the centre of the lake bed rather than the edge also suggests that lake levels rose and fell dramatically over time.

“The mudcracks show that the lakes in Gale Crater had gone through the same type of cycles that we see on Earth,” Stein added.

Representational image for planet Mars.
Representational image. Pixabay

Although scientists have known almost since the moment Curiosity landed in 2012 that Gale Crater once contained lakes, “the mudcracks are exciting because they add context to our understanding of this ancient lacustrine system”, Stein explained, in the paper published in the journal Geology.

“We are capturing a moment in time. This research is just a chapter in a story that Curiosity has been building since the beginning of its mission,” he said.

Also Read: SpaceX to build Mars rockets in Los Angeles

For the study, the team focused on a coffee table-sized slab of rock nicknamed “Old Soaker”.

Old Soaker is crisscrossed with polygons identical in appearance to desiccation features on Earth.

They found that the polygons — confined to a single layer of rock and with sediment filling the cracks between them — formed from exposure to air, rather than other mechanisms such as thermal or hydraulic fracturing, the researchers said.  IANS