Response to Zika and the Olympics Letter


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Tag(s): Legacy post
Topic(s): Politics Public Health Sports Ethics

The following letter was received by in response to our link to a letter written by professionals urging the Olympics to be postponed this year because of the threat of Zika.

by Ralph R. Frerichs

It may seem strange to hear WHO’s Margaret Chan or CDC’s Thomas Frieden quickly reject any suggestion that the Olympics be postponed or moved to avoid expanding Brazil’s Zika epidemic, not even offering caveats of future research findings. Yet all this has occurred before, and not that many years ago.

When the world’s greatest cholera epidemic first appeared in Haiti in 2010, brought by UN peacekeepers from Nepal, the UN, WHO and CDC all were united in avoiding discovery of the source. Rather than safeguarding the IOC and the Olympics, back then these agencies were safeguarding the image of UN peacekeeping operations, deemed more important than scientific truth for maintaining worldwide safety and stability.

All this is described in my new book, “Deadly River – Cholera and Cover-up in Post-earthquake Haiti,” (Cornell University Press, May 2016). The non-fiction book tells the story of cholera in Haiti, of French epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux’s determined to find its origins so he could help eliminate its reach, and of the political intrigue that has made that effort so difficult. Details and visuals are found at

Ralph R. Frerichs is Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology at UCLA



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