More than 150 health professionals have called for the Olympic Games to be postponed or moved to a different country to help stop the spread of the Zika virus.
The call comes as concerns about the spread of the virus in Brazil grow ahead of the Games, which are expected to bring more than 500,000 spectators to Rio de Janeiro this summer.
The open letter to the World Health Organisation (WHO), signed by professors and doctors from six different continents and at least 27 countries states:
We are writing to express our concern about the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. WHO's declaration fo Zika as a 'public health emergency of international concern,' coupled with new scientific findings that underscore the seriousness of that problem, call for the Rio 2016 Games to be postponed and/or moved to another location.
Because Zika is a new emergency, its many uncertainties—of travel flows during the Games, of epidemiology, and of entomology—currently make it impossible for mathematical models to predict the epidemic’s course accurately.
– Open letter to WHO signed by 152 health professionals
Scientists from developed and developing nations signed the letter, along with professionals working in countries both affected and not affected by the virus.
The WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, have rejected the call. The WHO said that disrupting the games would "not significantly alter" the spread of the virus, while Tom Frieden of the CDC added: "There is no public health reason to cancel or delay the games".
There is some precedent for rescheduling big international tournaments due to public health concerns. The group points to the 2003 Women's World Cup, which was moved from China to the United States six months before it was due to start due to concerns about the Sars outbreak.
The modern Olympic Games have been held every four years since 1896, except for during the First and Second World Wars when the tournaments scheduled for 1916, 1940 and 1944 were cancelled.