'Playing hide and Zika' spurs debate among readers

Here are some letters from readers in response to whether the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil should be delayed due to the Zika virus outbreak.

Have you read the editorial by Peter J. McDonnell, MD, Playing hide and Zika with Aedes aegypti?

Here are some letters from readers in response to whether the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil should be delayed due to the Zika virus outbreak.

“My experience is that ophthalmologists are very concerned with doing the right thing, and this issue of whether it is ethical to hold the Olympics in the face of this Zika outbreak and the affected infants is interesting because of that desire to do the right thing,” Dr. McDonnell said. “The interest certainly demonstrates that ophthalmologists are not limited in their interests to only eye disease, but definitely see ‘the big picture.'"

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"Ophthalmology is extremely competitive and as a result our specialty is filled with very intelligent people, and the comments I see certainly are consistent with that fact," he continued. "Obviously, I appreciate when readers take the time to respond, positively or negatively, to what they read in Ophthalmology Times. Invariably the comments are very thoughtful and I learn a lot."

Dr. McDonnell also adds some updated information on the Zika virus since the original article was published.




Dear Dr. McDonnell,

You seem to be up on so many of the same issues that interest me and probably so many others who stay silent. Just a tidbit: the Brazilian flag has green to represent its forests and hope, yellow for its gold (meaning many riches), blue for its big skies, no red to signify lack of bloodshed in wars. I think there actually was some bloodshed but much less than most countries.

Because of travel, the world is small. We have already imported the virus to the United States. The risk during the Olympics is not only to the competitors, but many will carry the virus home with them. It is a world problem. I think the Olympics should be cancelled and money spent on eradication of the mosquito.


Elizabeth Daher, MD, DaherVision, Wellesley, MA




Dear Dr. McDonnell,

As for whether the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brasil should be cancelled on account of Zika virus, I think we should defer to our very own Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). During a telephone press conference briefing in October 2014, he was asked whether Americans should fear contracting Ebola virus while using public transportation due to open travel between endemic West African nations and the United States.  His response was thus:

“I think there are two different parts of that equation,” Dr. Frieden said. “The first is, if you’re a member of the traveling public and are healthy, should you be worried that you might have gotten it by sitting next to someone? And the answer is no.”

“Second, if you are sick and you may have Ebola, should you get on a bus? And the answer to that is also no. You might become ill, you might have a problem that exposes someone around you,” he said.

It follows from such logic that if you don’t have Zika, you should have no fear of contracting Zika while attending The Games.  However, if you have Zika, you should stay out of Rio lest you serve as a host who might be bitten by Aedes aegypti, which then could go on to infect a healthy spectator or athlete.

Such brilliant Doublespeak would propel Dr. Frieden to chair the IOC and fill his bank account with several million Brasilian Reais.  Problem solved.


Paul Berner, MD, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Fort Harrison, MT

Reference: http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/t1015-ebola-reponse-update.html




Dr. McDonnell,

Freedom has its risks, but I favor free choice-I would hope that Brazil will do everything possible to mitigate risks of Zika, but nowhere and no time is entirely free of risks in this uncertain world of ours. 

I would advise that the Olympics proceed as scheduled and that the athletes & spectators be informed of the risks and be allowed to decide for themselves whether they want to attend.

Larry Eninger, MD, Pacific Vision Medical Center, Crescent City, CA





Dear Dr. McDonnell,

Your editorial in Ophthalmology Times includes information questioning the advisability of Brazil hosting the Olympics in August 2016 because of the Zika Virus. Among other reasons for cancelling the event, spreading the virus around the world via the athletes is an important consideration.


Paul Honan, MD, Lebanon, IN




Dr. McDonnell's update since the original article was published:

"I have since met the ophthalmologists in Brazil who examined these affected babies in Recife and published the results showing the ophthalmic problems. It seems the data increasingly supportive of the virus being the causative agent. Naturally, there is tremendous anxiety amongst pregnant women in countries afflicted with this organism who worry about the futures of their children. My belief is that organizations like the World Health Organization should have the world’s best public health experts look into this and render a scientifically based opinion as to whether holding the Games as scheduled is in the best interest of the world."

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