NYU professor among 125 medical professionals calling for Rio Olympics change due to Zika virus

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A letter from 125 international scientists and medical ethicists - including several New York-based doctors and professors - is calling for the Rio Olympics to be postponed or moved in the "interest of public health" due to the Zika virus.

The group released the letter it sent to Dr. Margaret Chan Friday. She is the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The group cited previous cancellations or moves:
"We make this call despite the widespread fatalism that the Rio 2016 Games are inevitable or 'too big to fail.' History teaches this is wrong: the 1916, 1940, and 1944 Olympic Games were not just postponed, but cancelled, and other sporting events were moved because of disease, as Major League Baseball did for Zika, and the Africa Cup of Nations did for Ebola."

The group behind the letter to WHO also said Zika is different from other diseases they've seen.

"The Brazilian strain of Zika virus harms health in ways that science has not observed before. An unnecessary risk is posed when 500,000 foreign tourists from all countries attend the Games, potentially acquire that strain, and return home to places where it can become endemic," wrote the group.

The WHO declared a global emergency over the Zika virus back in February, calling it an "extraordinary event" that poses a public health threat to other parts of the world.

The group wrote in the letter that it believes the WHO could be avoiding a recommendation because of a partnership with the Olympic Committee:
"We are concerned that WHO is rejecting these alternatives because of a conflict of interest. Specifically, WHO entered into an official partnership with the International Olympic Committee, in a Memorandum of Understanding that remains secret. There is no good reason for WHO not to disclose this Memorandum of Understanding, as is standard practice for conflicts of interest. Not doing so casts doubt on WHO's neutrality, for reasons described further in the Appendix."

Among the authors of the letter is Dr. Arthur Caplan, a professor with NYU's Langone Medical Center.
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