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Rio Olympics 'Must Not Proceed' Due To Zika Virus, Professor Argues

CAMBRIDGE (CBS) – The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro should be postponed or moved as Brazil deals with the threat of the Zika virus, an article in the latest edition of the Harvard Public Health Review argues.

The special commentary by Amir Attaran, a professor of law and medicine at the University of Ottawa, says the games "must not proceed" because the mosquito-borne virus is flourishing in Rio.

A municipal agent sprays anti Zika mosquitos chimical product at the sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro. (Photo by Cristophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images)

"Simply put, Zika infection is more dangerous, and Brazil's outbreak more extensive, than scientists reckoned a short time ago," Attaran writes. "Which leads to a bitter truth: the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games must be postponed, moved, or both, as a precautionary concession."

With hundreds of thousands of spectators and athletes expected to converge on Brazil for the Olympics, the risk of spreading the virus worldwide is just too high, Attaran says. It would only take one infected traveler to turn Zika into a "full-blown global health disaster," he argues.

The International Olympic Committee has said recently that it does not see any reason to alter its plans in Rio due the Zika threat, but will keep a close eye on developments. The IOC has also said that because the Olympics takes place during Brazil's winter months, the mosquito threat is not expected to be as severe, though Attaran says that's still up for debate.

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