Several months ago, information about the Zika virus began to appear in the Western media. Zika had circulated in Asia and Africa for decades, but its symptoms were usually mild compared to other mosquito-borne infections. Then last year, Brazilian physicians noticed an alarming increase in newborn microcephaly: babies with small heads and an expected lifetime of severe neurological problems.

Now, with over 1,400 cases of microcephaly confirmed in Brazil among babies whose mothers were infected by Zika during pregnancy, and with intensive study by the worldwide scientific community, it is clear that a pandemic is spreading throughout the world. Now is not the time for an estimated half-million athletes and visitors to flock to Brazil for the Summer Olympics, set to kick off Aug. 5. The Games should be canceled while the public health calamity is addressed.

A Zika emergency is developing, and clearly, this is no simple matter. It’s becoming evident that the virus can be transmitted sexually as well as by mosquitoes. Additionally, global warming makes it inevitable that summer will bring hordes of such unwanted biting insect visitors further north, intensifying this catastrophe.

Zika-linked neurological conditions are surfacing in children born with normal-sized heads, as well as in newborns whose mothers didn’t have the rash characteristic of Zika during pregnancy. This development has been named “Zika congenital syndrome” by scientists with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other global health experts.

The CDC and the World Health Organization have advised that women living in areas where Zika is being transmitted delay pregnancy; however, one wonders what the practical and societal results of such advice will be as time passes. Abortion demand is already soaring in Latin America. Huge expenditures requested in Washington to address this problem have been disappointingly delayed because of political squabbling.

On top of this developing disaster, we now have the Summer Olympics just weeks away. Over 10,000 young athletes from over 200 countries, accompanied by armies of support staff, will be on fumes to get to Rio de Janeiro, pumped to the max and unfazed by any bug.

But although young people trained for competition and craving their opportunity to compete at world-class events will be reluctant to cancel, the red flags are too numerous. Yes, airlines and hotels will be unhappy; however, the health of attendees should weigh much more heavily.

Already, golfers, pro basketball players and others are opting out: LeBron James, for example, will be wisely watching from Cleveland. Gary Player has admonished golfers who are declining to go to the Games, raising the question of where he attended medical school.

The Games draw together the young athletes of the world in a dramatic spectacle. However, this close contact must be identified as an obvious environment in which proximity will become a worldwide enemy of the countries involved, as it will set up conduits for the spread of Zika back to their homelands. A more dire public health scenario cannot even be imagined.

Amid the concern over Zika, other calamities are playing out in Brazil. The country’s president has been ousted and is facing impeachment proceedings. The Brazilian tourism minister just resigned over corruption allegations, despite reassurances by the mayor of Rio de Janeiro that the Olympics will not be affected by the spreading national scandal.

It does not seem that matters in Brazil could be much worse, but they are. Huge sums have allegedly been passed around among Rio officials to gain favors in all the business transactions taking place in association with the Olympics there. (The International Olympic Committee itself has long been suspected in graft and kickback schemes, especially during the selection of future Games sites.)

To add another layer of trouble, Russia stands accused of state-sponsored doping during the 2014 Sochi Olympics; its track and field team has been banned from Rio, and it’s possible that no Russian will be allowed to compete in Brazil. And, finally, the terrorism threat is just so enormous as to be unthinkable.

Listing the problems is easy. Now what? Let’s consider this: Postpone the Rio Olympics and join with participating nations to help Brazil correct its problems, then showcase what it is like to do the right thing, bringing friends and neighbors together, hoping good will may lead to another kind of epidemic: one of respect, honesty, fun and games. Everyone would love it, given the events we usually endure. Meanwhile, we should develop vaccines and treatment for Zika.