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WHO public health advice regarding the Olympics and Zika virus

News release

Based on current assessment, cancelling or changing the location of the 2016 Olympics will not significantly alter the international spread of Zika virus. Brazil is 1 of almost 60 countries and territories which to date report continuing transmission of Zika by mosquitoes. People continue to travel between these countries and territories for a variety of reasons. The best way to reduce risk of disease is to follow public health travel advice.

WHO advises pregnant women not to travel to areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission. This includes Rio de Janeiro. Pregnant women’s sex partners returning from areas with circulating virus should be counselled to practise safer sex or abstain throughout the pregnancy.

Anyone considering travel to the Olympics should:

  • Follow the travel advice provided by their countries’ health authorities, and consult a health worker before travelling.
  • Whenever possible, during the day, protect themselves from mosquito bites by using insect repellents and by wearing clothing – preferably light-coloured – that covers as much of the body as possible.
  • Practise safer sex (for example, use condoms correctly and consistently) or abstain from sex during their stay and for at least 8 weeks after their return, particularly if they have had or are experiencing symptoms of Zika virus.1
  • Choose air-conditioned accommodation (where windows and doors are usually kept closed to prevent the cool air from escaping, and mosquitoes cannot enter the rooms).
  • Avoid visiting areas in cities and towns with no piped water or poor sanitation (ideal breeding grounds of mosquitoes), where the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes is higher.

WHO/PAHO is providing public health advice to the Government of Brazil and the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee, on ways to further mitigate the risk of athletes and visitors contracting Zika virus during the Games. An important focus of WHO advice revolves around measures to reduce populations of Aedes mosquitoes which transmit chikungunya, dengue and yellow fever in addition to Zika virus.

Based on the current assessment of Zika virus circulating in almost 60 countries globally and 39 countries in the Americas, there is no public health justification for postponing or cancelling the games. WHO will continue to monitor the situation and update our advice as necessary.

For additional travel assessments from other public health agencies see:

  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assessment, published 26 May 2016:
    Read the assessment
  • European Centres for Disease Prevention and Control, published 10 May 2016:
    Read more (PDF)

For more information, please contact:

Daniel Epstein
PAHO Department of Communications
Mobile +1 301 219 2105
Email: epsteind@paho.org

Nyka Alexander
WHO Department of Communications
Mobile +41 79 634 02 95
Email: alexandern@who.int

Mr Gregory Härtl
WHO Department of Communications
Mobile: +41 79 203 67 15
Email: hartlg@who.int

Ms Fadéla Chaib
WHO Department of Communications
Mobile: +41 79 475 55 56
Email: chaibf@who.int

Mr Tarik Jasarevic
WHO Department of Communications
Mobile: +41 79 367 62 14
Email: jasarevict@who.int



1Corrigendum: This sentence was changed on 2 June 2016 to reflect the update in the WHO guidance document, "Prevention of sexual transmission of Zika virus", which was updated on 30 May to the following: "To prevent the onward transmission of Zika and adverse pregnancy and fetal outcomes, all returning travellers should practice safer sex, including through the correct and consistent use of condoms, or abstaining from sex for at least 8 weeks."