RIO DE JANEIRO — Concerns that the Zika virus poses a major
health risk at the upcoming Summer Olympics are overblown, and calls to either
delay or move the games because of the virus are unwarranted, according to an
executive with the Rio Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The risks are far greater in the northeast and more rural
regions of Brazil than in the Olympic host city, Rio Convention & Visitors Bureau director
Michael Nagy told a group of travel agents during a presentation at the
Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel & Resort on Tuesday. He added that the relative
novelty of Zika has attracted attention, and he accused media outlets of
magnifying the story to generate more viewer and reader interest.
“Malaria kills people, but people already know about it.
Dengue kills people, but people already know about it. People don’t know about
Zika,” said Nagy.
Nagy added that other cities, such as ones in Europe, are a
greater terrorism risk than Rio.
Earlier this week, a University of Ottawa professor and
public-health specialist published an article in the Harvard Public Health
Review calling for international Olympic authorities to either delay or move
the games because of Zika, according to the Associated Press. Professor Amir
Attaran, in a follow-up interview with the AP, said the International Olympic
Committee (IOC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) would be “among the
cruelest institutions in the world” for not delaying or moving the games, which
are scheduled to run from Aug. 5 to Aug. 21.
Rio is expected to attract about 600,000 visitors for the Olympics.
Brazil authorities late last month reported that the incidence
of the Zika virus in Rio was 157 per 100,000 inhabitants.