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Cancel The Rio Olympics

Denying reality when the consequences are personal is dangerous. Take chest pains, or a lump where none should be for instance. When Olympic officials in Rio de Janeiro ignore the reality of Zika in Brazil, the consequences are Titanic (pun intended).

“We are counting on luck, we are counting on weather,” Brazilian biologist Mario Moscatelli told [Fox News Latino]. “The problem is that a city hosting an event like this should be taking actions to prevent the spread of disease, not depend on external factors.”

I always count on luck and the weather when I’m planning to host thousands of the world’s best athletes in the midst of an enormous outbreak of a disease that is known to cause birth defects. The Olympic games are scheduled to take place between August 5-21, which is Brazil’s winter/dry season. But so far that has not slowed Zika as Brazilian officials said it would.

“This is not an Olympic issue,” Rio de Janeiro’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, told a reporter when he was asked about the possibility that a Zika outbreak might happen during the Games. “The Olympics are taking place when the mosquito is not procreating, not active. August and July are the driest months, and they’re less warm, so you have a lower incidence of mosquito bites,” he said.

In little more than a year, 100,000 Brazilians have contracted Zika. Brazilian authorities didn’t have full statistics on the epidemic’s center or caseload until recently, and the results are not encouraging. Rio is now smack in the epicenter of the epidemic.

Following an emergency meeting of the World Health Organization dealing with Zika, two NYU professors in bioethics and sports medicine called for the Olympics to be cancelled or delayed.

It is beginning to look like the time has come to call off the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The reason is simple: young women cannot travel there safely. While polluted water and security issues have already made things tough for anyone who would be a visitor there, now Brazil is on the front line of the mosquito-borne Zika virus epidemic. To host the Games at a site teeming with Zika, an outbreak the World Health Organization has labelled a “public health emergency of international concern,” is, quite simply, irresponsible.

For the USOC to send our young (especially women) athletes to an active epidemic in a disease-infested city where officials are “counting on luck” to keep this from becoming a worldwide disaster is simply denying reality.

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