Following Shaheen Letter Voicing Zika Concerns, World Health Organization Responds by Announcing It Will Evaluate Risks of Holding the 2016 Olympic Games as Scheduled
**Shaheen’s letter called for public health assessment of the potential for global spread of the Zika virus associated with holding the Summer Olympic Games in Brazil**
(Washington, DC) –The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Margaret Chan, has responded to a letter from U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) calling on the WHO to evaluate the public health risks of holding the 2016 Summer Olympics Games in Brazil. In her letter, Shaheen calls for a careful examination by the WHO of the potential for the Olympic Games to greatly accelerate the global outbreak of the Zika virus. In response, Dr. Chan expressed her appreciation for Senator Shaheen’s letter and announced that she has directed the WHO’s Zika Emergency Committee to evaluate the risks of holding the Summer Games as currently scheduled.
In her letter to Shaheen, Dr. Chan wrote, “Given the current level of international concern, I have decided to ask members of the Zika Emergency Committee to examine the risks of holding the Olympic Summer Games as currently scheduled. The experts, well-versed in travel medicine, the epidemiology of vector-borne diseases, seasonal patterns of mosquito-borne infections, and risks communications, will meet shortly. Their advice to me will be immediately made public on our web site…”
“The Olympic Games draw athletes and spectators from every corner of the globe and it’s important that we understand the global health implications,” said Shaheen, after receiving Dr. Chan’s letter. “I appreciate that Dr. Chan is taking this issue seriously and has directed public health experts to examine the potential for the Olympic Games to accelerate the spread of the Zika virus. I look forward to reviewing the conclusions of the Committee’s findings.”
Shaheen has been a leading voice in the Senate calling for action to address the Zika virus. In January, Shaheen wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson calling for an aggressive response to Zika. She questioned top health officials in Senate hearings and spoke on the floor about the need to provide funding to those preparing for the spread of Zika. In April, Shaheen heard directly from New Hampshire health officials in Concord on the need for resources to combat Zika.