WHO: Olympics should go ahead, despite Zika threat

WHO: Olympics should go ahead, despite Zika threat

The New Zealand Olympic Committee has come out in support of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in rejecting calls to move or postpone the Rio Olympics because of the Zika virus.

It follows an open letter signed by 150 of the world's leading scientists saying it would be unethical for the Games to go ahead in Brazil.

"In the case of Zika, preventing the Olympic Games will not have a, from what we can see, a substantive impact on its transmission and spread globally," says WHO assistant director-general Dr Bruce Aylward.

It comes as a relief for athletes, but not the 150 health experts who have written an open letter calling for the Games to be relocated or delayed.

"It's a quick response from the World Health Organisation," says Dr Lee Igel. "It's an anticipated response; it doesn't necessarily mean it's the right response."

Aggressive mosquito control is already underway to combat the virus, which is linked to thousands of birth defects in Brazil. But the virus has already spread to 60 countries.

In New Zealand there have been a total of 86 confirmed cases so far this year -- all but one were infected overseas. The concern is that increased travel to Rio will mean an increase in cases here.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee is confident it can minimise the risks.

"It's simple stuff," says Ashley Abbott of the New Zealand Olympics Committee. "It's insect repellent, it's mosquito nets, it's keeping windows closed, it's having air conditioning in their rooms. So what we're advising athletes is to number one avoid being bitten."

With half a million people descending on Rio for the Games in August, the WHO says the best way to reduce risk of infection is simply to follow public health travel advice.