Steamboat bookseller, retired pharmacologist signs letter to move 2016 Rio Games
Steamboat Springs — A Steamboat Springs bookseller and retired pharmacologist is among more than 150 medical professionals and scientists urging the World Health Organization to recommend moving or postponing the Rio 2016 Olympic Games because of Zika virus.
Off the Beaten Path owner Ron Krall said his colleagues in the bioethics community reached out to him to sign an open letter to the WHO that describes the unnecessary risk to global health posed by holding the games in Rio de Janeiro.
A mosquito-transmitted Zika virus outbreak began in Brazil more than a year ago and has since spread to 60 countries.
The letter states there are 120,000 probable Zika cases in Brazil, including 32,000 in Rio de Janeiro.
Krall said consequences of the virus are still being discovered, and potentially exposing hundreds of thousands of people to an area with Zika is worrisome.
“I recognize, as I think most of us that signed the letter recognize, that this particular pandemic has not reached the level of risk to humans, and harm, say as Ebola, where the decision would be obvious,” Krall said. “But it is still true that the Games are an optional event. They aren’t necessary.”
The letter states that athletes, journalists and delegations are struggling with whether to attend the games, which are scheduled for Aug. 5 to 21.
Krall said he’s aware of the economic implications of moving, postponing or canceling the games, but he wants to see the WHO conduct an “open, transparent, independent” expert study to weigh the risks to public health associated with the spread of Zika because of the Olympic Games.
So far, United States health officials have dismissed the idea of stopping the Games, with U.S. Centers for Disease Control Director Tom Frieden pointing out that people traveling to Brazil for the games represent a very small percentage of the travel to Zika-affected areas.
“Unfortunately, I think it’s an awfully difficult train to stop,” Krall said.
In addition to owning the bookstore in Steamboat, Krall is a physician who travels to Pittsburgh a handful of times each year for an adjunct faculty position at the University of Pittsburg Center for Bioethics and Health Law.
He also spent 25 years as a clinical pharmacologist pursuing new drug development, including helping to oversee the development of Ambien and other drugs.
Krall said he and his wife, Sue, visited Steamboat Springs in the 1990s, moved here part-time in 2003 and moved to town full-time and purchased the bookstore in 2007.
Krall noted he was sympathetic to the athletes training for the Olympics, and he said has enjoyed watching the Olympics in the past.
“I’m a huge fan of the Olympics,” Krall said.
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