The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has confirmed it will not stop its athletes from performing at the Rio Olympics this summer over fears about the Zika virus. In response to a report on Monday – suggesting officials had said some athletes may consider skipping the event – a spokesman clarified Team USA “did not, would not and will not” stop athletes from attending.
The press generated over such comments goes to show how seriously the USOC – and the rest of the world – are taking the outbreak. USOC said it was closely monitoring the situation in conjunction with the CDC (Center for Disease Control), World Health Organisation and organising officials from Rio.
The Zika outbreak continues to spread, with an emphasis on Latin American and Caribbean countries. The CDC has now issued travel alerts for pregnant women in 28 countries in the region. The infection usually results in mild symptoms which may include a rash, slight fever and tiredness – much like Dengue fever – but is said to resolve itself within seven days.
For pregnant women, however, the dangers are greater. It’s believed an infection of the virus can lead to birth defects and a condition called microcephaly, which impacts head and brain development of the foetus.
In the US, the state of Florida is preparing itself. The Sunshine State enjoys the year-round warm weather and has always played host to both mosquitoes and a large number of global visitors – particularly of Latin American origin. An alert has been issued, and doorstep inspections are being carried out by officials in areas where the virus has been reported.
Meanwhile, President Obama has requested $1.8 billion from Congress in emergency funding to help control the spread. Mr Obama wants to invest more heavily in prevention programs, vaccination, research and advice for lower-income women.
ABC News reported the Australian Olympics Committee were advising athletes to wear long sleeves, and that any team member pregnant at the time of the Games should “consider the risks very carefully” before making a commitment to attend.