Zika and the 2016 Olympics – Is it Safe to Go?

With the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, quickly approaching, one question that is on the minds of many is whether the games should proceed considering the presence of the Zika virus in the country. It’s certainly a valid concern.

Just recently a group of academics, doctors, scientists, and bioethicists penned an open letter strongly encouraging the games either be canceled, postponed, or moved to another country. And a recent editorial in the Harvard Public Health Review also called for a cancellation of the summer games over what the World Health Organization (WHO) has already declared a global health emergency. Considering the deadly and/or severely disfiguring effects the virus can have on unborn babies, moving the venue to another country sounds like a no-brainer, right?

Not so fast.

While some strongly believe holding the Summer Olympics in Brazil could exacerbate what is already a global health emergency, others believe the risk is minimal. Their arguments are worth considering.

Should Zika Really Stop the 2016 Olympics?

Should Zika Really Stop the 2016 Olympics?

Proponents of continuing the games point out that the WHO has stated that there is a “very low risk” of Zika spreading globally as a result of holding the Olympics in Brazil. While this may seem like a contradiction to their original assessment of the virus being a “global health emergency,” it isn’t for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s currently winter in Brazil (yes, the “summer” games really are being held in winter). The mosquitoes that transmit the deadly virus prefer the warm, moist weather of summer instead of the cool, dry weather of the Brazilian winter. This doesn’t mean there will be no mosquitoes, of course, but their numbers will be greatly reduced.

Another point to consider is that millions of people have already been traveling to and from areas where the Zika virus is known to exist without experiencing any problems. This doesn’t mean that travelers can throw caution to the wind and not have any worries. Rather, it demonstrates that as long as safety precautions are made – such as using insect repellant and covering exposed skin with long clothing – it is possible to travel to affected areas without contracting the virus. Using such safety precautions is also prudent if you are traveling anywhere in South America right now due to the presence of dengue and chikungunya, both of which are also spread by mosquitoes.

Yet another point to consider is the immense investment that Rio de Janeiro has made to host the games. It takes an average of ten years of preparations for a city to be able to host the Olympics. The city has made a significant investment of resources that will be forfeited if the games are canceled or moved. Considering the fact that Brazil is currently in the midst of the worst recession since the 1930s, the country desperately needs the games to encourage economic activity and to recoup expenditures already made. In response to questions regarding the country’s severe economic situation, Rio 2016 organizing committee spokesman Mario Andrada recently stated: “The games, they are guaranteed and will happen.”

The games, it appears, will go on.

If attending the Rio Olympics is on your “to-do” list, should you still go? Or should you sit this one out? Since there is no specific travel ban on visiting Rio, it’s a decision that each individual will have to make for him or herself. If you do decide to go, of course, it’s definitely wise to take precautions to protect yourself from mosquitoes.

The situation is different if you are a pregnant woman. Both the CDC and the WHO strongly recommend pregnant women completely avoid traveling to areas where the Zika virus is known to be. Although the overall risk of contracting Zika at Rio is low, the virus’s devastating effects on developing fetuses is too great to ignore. If even just one pregnant woman contracts Zika when it is so easy to prevent by skipping the games, that’s one too many.

If you are pregnant, definitely skip the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and watch it on television from the comfort and safety of home. There’s always the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea to look forward to.


Back to Main Blog Page

Ready to learn more?

Fill out our form and start receiving information from schools today!

About You

Next Step >

Educational Info

Select up to 3 schools from the list.

Have You Taken the GRE?*


Military Affiliation?*


Schools with Online MPH Programs
A.T. Still University Online MPH
Benedictine University Online MPH
Concordia University of Nebraska Online MPH
Creighton University Online MPH
Des Moines University Online MPH
East Tennessee State University Online MPH
Emory University Online MPH
Florida A&M University Online MPH
George Washington University Online MPH
Idaho State University Online MPH
Johns Hopkins University Online MPH
Liberty University Online MPH
Loma Linda University Online MPH
Loyola University Online MPH
Medical College of Wisconsin Online MPH
New Mexico State University Online MPH
New York Medical College Online MPH
Northern Illinois University Online MPH
Nova Southeastern University Online MPH
OHSU-PSU School of Public Health Online MPH
Rivier University Online MPH Programs
San Jose State University Online MPH
Simmons College Online MPH Program
Tulane University Online MPH
University at Albany-SUNY Online MPH
University of Alabama Online MPH
University of Alaska Online MPH
University of California Berkeley Online MPH
University of Florida Online MPH
University of Illinois Online MPH
University of Massachusetts-Amherst Online MPH
University of Minnesota Online MPH
University of Montana Online MPH
University of Nebraska Medical Center Online MPH
University of New England Online MPH
University of North Carolina Online MPH
University of North Texas Online MPH
University of South Carolina Online MPH
University of South Florida Online MPH
University of Southern California Online MPH
University of West Florida Online MPH
West Virginia University Online MPH

Are you ready to learn more? Request Info from Schools


Most US gun owners support stronger gun laws

May 29, 2018, By Sarah Hussain

US health chief pledges more action if Ebola spreads

May 24, 2018, By Sarah Hussain

IMPACT Melanoma set to celebrate National Don’t Fry Day

May 21, 2018, By Sarah Hussain

Already reeling Venezuela faces new challenge: An HIV outbreak

May 17, 2018, By Sarah Hussain

Request Info From Schools