Monday July 16, 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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Trial Wipes out More Than 80 per cent of Disease-Spreading Mosquitoes

The World Health Organization estimates that almost 4 billion people in 128 countries are at risk of contracting dengue. The disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected female mosquito

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A female Aedes aegypti mosquito, known to carry diseases such as dengue, Zika and yellow fever, acquires a blood meal on the arm of a researcher at the Biomedical Sciences Institute of Sao Paulo University in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jan. 18, 2016.
A female Aedes aegypti mosquito, known to carry diseases such as dengue, Zika and yellow fever, acquires a blood meal on the arm of a researcher at the Biomedical Sciences Institute of Sao Paulo University in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jan. 18, 2016. (VOA)

Mosquitos are one of the deadliest creatures on Earth. In a town in northern Australia, more than 80 percent of the mosquitoes that spread dengue fever have been wiped out in a pioneering tropical trial. Scientists say the results could help global efforts to eradicate the dangerous pest.

In the trial, millions of male Aedes aegypti, or yellow fever mosquitoes, were bred in a laboratory and infected with a naturally occurring bacteria that made them sterile.

They were then released near the small farming town of Innisfail in Queensland, 1,600 kilometers (995 miles) north of Brisbane.

Over three months they mated with females who laid eggs that did not hatch, causing the population to fall by about 80 percent. The type of mosquito used in the trial is responsible for infecting hundreds of millions of people around the world with diseases such as dengue, Zika and yellow fever.

The WHO says that the global incidence of dengue has increased 30 times in the last 30 years.
The WHO says that the global incidence of dengue has increased 30 times in the last 30 years. Pixabay

The project was run by researchers from Australia’s national science body, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, or CSIRO, in a trial that received funding from Google’s parent company, Alphabet.

Dr. Rob Grenfell, the director of Health and Biosecurity at the CSIRO says the results are a major breakthrough.

“Now this is momentous in the sense that we have achieved a significant decrease in populations of mosquitoes in our test area here in northern Queensland,” he said. “But also to commemorate the incredible community that actually backed our science here, not only did they open their hearts and minds but also their homes to allow our scientists to come in and trap and test our mosquito-controlling technologies.”

Also Read: NASA ask Citizen Scientists to help Track Mosquitoes, Reduce Disease Outbreaks

Australian researchers want to test the technology overseas in an area with high levels of dengue. They believe it could be a valuable weapon against a public health menace.

The World Health Organization estimates that almost 4 billion people in 128 countries are at risk of contracting dengue. The disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected female mosquito. The WHO says that the global incidence of dengue has increased 30 times in the last 30 years. (VOA)