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The Zika Virus Crisis And The WHO

Posted in Spotlight on Humanity, and World Affairs

The World Health Organization has ignored the advice of 150 scientists and doctors to move or postpone the Olympics in Rio in August 2016. Is this wise, considering they admit they got it wrong with the ebola crisis of 2014, and should have acted sooner, but instead the virus spread and only with the emergency enforcements of individual countries was it curtailed. Can they be trusted this time when they have been warned and advised? The scientists in an open letter state it would be unethical to allow the games to go ahead considering the risk of spreading the virus worldwide. Ignoring expert advice at the risk of creating an epidemic is not wise, and one must question their reasons.

Instead, I heard a spokesman for the WHO saying all precautions had been taken, and that the risks of contracting the zika virus were low, and that the virus would spread regardless of the games. The fact if there is a risk, it warrants some consideration here, because these are only known risks. There may well be risks that scientists are unaware of, and then that’s too late. Isn’t it wiser to contain a virus if you are able to, as the cost of the lives that will be affected outweigh the profits made from the games. This is hardly an effective reason (if one can even call it that) to ignore the advice of those who are experts in their field. Scientists will admit they do not know enough about the virus still as in the effects, how it is transmitted, and how to treat it. Surely it’s irresponsible to ignore the findings and advice of experts in the field? Perhaps it boils down to money and that the IOC has a conflict of interest with the WHO.

When you hear statements that the WHO gives advice to prevent mosquito bites as the steps to avoid risk, that’s advice all people have when they go to subtropical climates, and that they find in a local pharmacy. If that’s the best an international agency can do, surely it’s time to rethink their role in society. Naturally it is up to individuals who wish to visit and take that risk, but are they been fed misleading information just as the WHO did with ebola? The competing athletes have more of a dilemma; do they compete in the games and have a chance of winning a medal, and take a risk they may contract a virus that will paralyze them for the rest of their lives? Is that a chance worth taking?

While the WHO states people travel freely between the continents, they do so with the knowledge that there are risks. Is it responsible to hold a worldwide event and proclaim it is low risk when they don’t actually know that? Between now and August things could change; climate temperatures will increase and while they are attempting to eradicate the mosquitoes, this is nature we are talking about. You cannot contain airborne nature especially when you don’t know where they originated or where they may have migrated. While Brazil is still an undeveloped country, the lack of health care facilities should also be taken into consideration; how can they treat people, and will people be properly diagnosed?

The World Health Organization is an agency of the United Nations, but is it truly impartial, and can they be relied upon? People look to them for guidance and advice, but when that guidance is unreliable or flawed (as in the recent ebola crisis, where they said it had been contained, and it hadn’t, leading to countries banning flights from infected countries to protect themselves) how credible is it as a body? I’m no scientist, but my knowledge from school tells me that viruses find a host, mutate, and cannot be cured, but the body produces antibodies to fight the virus. Recovery is dependent on the strength of the immune system of the individual, and the virus will weaken the body for the rest of the person’s physical life. Is that a risk worth taking, when a known and unstable virus is prevalent?

The best way to prevent the zika virus is to avoid the area where the mosquitoes have been found to be native, and that is the Americas. Zika is spreading and the WHO has the power to prevent and limit the spread, however, they have chosen not to. That is irresponsible, but no one wants to say ‘I told you so,’ as that is too late when it results in deaths and long-term illnesses. They may have recommended pregnant women to avoid the games, due to the birth defects of babies from women that have been infected, but again if a virus can affect an unborn fetus, what else is it capable of that has not been discovered? Is that a low risk? Can the WHO be trusted where they have failed to heed advice before?

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