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Posts Tagged ‘Zika virus’

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Could the next Olympics violate human rights?

On August 5, 2016, Rio will become the first South American city to host the Summer Olympics. Along with the usual fanfare, there are also human rights concerns over the ongoing outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus and its potential impact on athletes and visitors. So much so that dozens of athletes from all over the world have decided to forego the event.

Few sports fans would associate their favourite competition with international human rights law, but according to one legal academic there are some surprising connections at play.

Monash Law School Professor Sarah Joseph, who will deliver the 2016 Michael Wincop Memorial Lecture in August, said sporting’s biggest event—the Olympics—has been embroiled in human rights controversy.

Could the next Olympics violate human rights?

Are we ready for the consequences of going ahead with the Rio Olympic games? (Photo: Griffith University)

The public lecture is being hosted by Griffith Law School’s Law Futures Centre.

Professor Joseph argues that holding the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, when there are serious health concerns about the Zika virus, could potentially violate human rights.

“It is highly unlikely that the [Rio Olympics] will be cancelled, despite the fact that it will inevitably spread Zika worldwide. Will this decision result in major threats to the enjoyment of the right to health?” she said.

Major sporting events like the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics can also lead to other human rights abuses, like the forced eviction of citizens to make way for the stadiums and facilities that need to be built.

Professor Joseph said while responsibility for evicting people falls to the host government, do sporting bodies like the International Olympic Committee and FIFA owe any human rights obligations to the people affected?

“Should events be awarded to countries with terrible human rights records, such as Russia, especially if preparation for the event might lead to abuses, such as deaths during stadium construction in Qatar?” she said.

Professor Joseph said that human rights issues could also arise at the individual level, where the labour rights of athletes are often severely constrained by administrative processes.

“Why is a young AFL draftee not able to play for the club of his choice, but can only play for the club that picks him? Why can they only move to the club of their choice after ten years of playing for the same club?” she said.

What’s most troubling is the way in which some sporting bodies and clubs disregard the health rights of their players. Professor Joseph said the Essendon Football Club doping scandal reveals how the club failed in its duty of care.

“They have been fined for OHS (occupational health and safety) breaches, but the affected players still do not know what they were injected with by their own employer,” she said.

Professor Joseph says that human rights obligations are also at stake in the many football codes that carry the risk of long-term brain damage due to multiple concussions.

Time magazine recently reported that over forty percent of NFL players in the US might have brain injuries. What did the NFL know about the dangers of its product for its employees and when?” she said.

While it may not seem it at first, the sporting arena is rife with human rights issues and obligations that are yet to be determined.

The public lecture that will explore these issues is hosted by the Law Futures Centre and is held annually to honour the scholarship and contributions of the late Professor Michael Whincop.

International Human Rights Law

International Human Rights Law at Griffith Law School is designed to expose students to the laws which deal with the protection of individuals and groups against violations by governments of certain internationally guaranteed rights. Students will gain a greater understanding of some of the theoretical, political and socio-economic issues associated with human rights awareness, advocacy and litigation. This course focuses on the structures and processes through which international human rights norms are established and transformed into rights. Students will gain insight into the relationship of international human rights norms to the Australian national legal system and the specific techniques for the implementation of human rights in domestic and international law.


Find out more about studying at Griffith Law School! Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Law Schools Admissions Officer Shannon Tilston at shannon@oztrekk.com.

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

University of Sydney experts discuss Zika virus

University of Sydney public health experts say a causal relationship between Zika virus infection during pregnancy and microcephaly is strongly suspected but not yet proven as the WHO declared the mosquito-borne virus a global public health threat.

The World Health Organisation Director-General Margaret Chan has declared the outbreak of Zika virus a public health emergency—only the fourth time the WHO has declared a state of emergency.

It’s estimated there are more than four million people living in areas populated by the Yellow Fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti), which is responsible for spreading the disease.

University of Sydney Public Health School

Learn more studying at the University of Sydney

Yellow fever mosquito, which is present in far north Queensland, can also spread dengue fever, chikungunya, yellow fever viruses and other diseases.

The Pan American Health Organisation says that Zika has spread in 24 nations and territories in the Americas, with reports it is rife in Asia.

“Declaring Zika virus a public health emergency has happened relatively early in the outbreak compared to the comparable declaration for Ebola virus,” says Dr Grant Hill-Cawthorne, a medical virologist from the University of Sydney.

Addressing a media conference on Feb. 2, he said the WHO declaration reflects a need by the global community to deal with infectious disease emergencies more rapidly.

“We need to communicate the risks to these people. We need the global community to get on board to aid in control efforts in South America and the other areas affected by the Zika virus.”

The virus is suspected of causing thousand of birth defects in Brazil but no firm causal link has been established. The first reported case of Zika infection was in 1947 in a macaque in Ziika forest, Uganda, after which the virus is also named.

“The emergency alert is a call to arms to focus on research in this area, particularly to establish a clear link between the Zika virus and the reported subsequent birth defects, especially microcephaly, which refers to reduced head size and brain damage,” he said.

Pregnant women travelling to countries with the Zika virus should apply insect repellents containing DEET or picaridin early in the morning, said University of Sydney entomologist, Dr Cameron Webb.

While echoing a federal government warning to reconsider travelling to 22 nations where Zika is transmitted, Dr Webb acknowledged it might be impossible for everyone to avoid or delay their travel plans.

Explaining how transmission of the virus could occur in Australia, Dr Webb said, “What happens is someone steps off the plane, shortly after they arrive in Australia they’re bitten by a local yellow fever mosquito who becomes infected and can pass the virus on to the local community.

“In the absence of the yellow fever mosquito in our major cities, the risk of outbreak are low,” he said. “We do have these mosquitoes in far north Queensland, areas around Cairns and Townsville are the places where we might likely get a small outbreak of Zika virus.”

Dr Webb said that if the virus were to spread to far north Queensland, Australian authorities would be well prepared. The yellow fever mosquito posed a threat to people because it had migrated out of the jungle and into the cities, but it could not survive in the southern states as the winters were too cold, he noted.

“Because 80 per cent of infections are asymptomatic there’s quite a significant likelihood of infected people returning to Australia, but unless they happen to travel to far north Queensland, the risk of them being bitten by an appropriate mosquito is relatively small,” said the University of Sydney’s Professor Lyn Gilbert, who is clinical lead of Infection Prevention and Control at the Western Sydney Local Health Network.

Dr Grant Hill-Cawthorne says it’s likely the Australian Government will be asked to contribute to a global effort led by the WHO against Zika.“A lot of the efforts will now be on countries like Australia to help South American countries to get on top of this.

“I think it would be very prudent, particularly considering that we are likely to see cases in Northern Queensland, it would be in Australia’s best interest to try and help on the ground where the concentration of cases are greatest.”

Public Health at the University of Sydney

The public health program at the Sydney Public Health School focuses on the prevention of illness and the promotion of health, with practitioners playing a proactive rather than a reactive role, especially with regard to the coordination of relevant community resources. The program provides the opportunity to develop skills and acquire knowledge essential for the effective practice of public health, including the effective management of community health problems.

Public health a Sydney Uni is open to students from health and non-health backgrounds. Public health is

  • preventing disease;
  • promoting health; and
  • prolonging life.

Program: Master of Public Health
Location: Sydney, New South Wales
Semester intakes: March and July
Duration: 1 year
Application deadline: Candidates are encouraged to apply a minimum of three months prior to the program’s start date.

Entry Requirements: A successful applicant for admission to the Master of Public Health program requires

  • a minimum four-year full time degree or equivalent qualification from the University of Sydney or an equivalent qualification; or
  • a shorter degree from the University of Sydney or an equivalent qualification, and non-degree professional qualifications and/or substantial relevant experience and/or other relevant qualifications.

Apply to the Sydney Public Health School!


If you have any questions about studying public health at the Sydney Public Health School, please contact OzTREKK’s Australian Public Health Schools Admissions Officer Adam Smith at adam@oztrekk.com.