Zika Won’t Stop Athletes from Competing in Olympics

Zika Won’t Stop Athletes from Competing in Olympics

Although the 2016 summer Olympics are due to take place in Rio de Janeiro where the risk of Zika infection is quite high, the United States Olympic team will not likely cancel their participation.

Although the United States Olympic Committee believes most of its athletes will not be phased by the Zika outbreak, in January it advised its athletes to stay home if they did not feel comfortable participating. At that time, athletes were told that they should, under no circumstance, feel obligated to travel to Rio if they felt they would be putting their health in jeopardy.

The USOC chief executive officer Scott Blackmun felt that the Zika virus and Brazil’s water quality were “manageable.” However, he felt that athletes who have been looking forward to and preparing for the Olympics for many years would not miss their opportunity to compete. He also stated that a USOC group was recently sent down to Rio to observe the situation and noted that the bay was 60 percent cleared.

Blackmun stated that the risk is not especially great, as only 1 in 4 people affected with the virus actually have noticeable symptoms. But, he did note that young people planning to have a family in the next few years may want to seriously consider whether or not they would still like to compete. This is due to the fact that there is strong evidence that the Zika virus is linked to microcephaly, a condition in which a child is born with an abnormally small head and severe developmental delays.

Acknowledging that many athletes, families of athletes, and fans will still go to Rio despite the Zika risks, the Center for Disease Control has issued a guide for those planning to attend.  The CDC recommends that pregnant women or those considering becoming pregnant skip the event and for men to wear condoms to prevent pregnancy for several months after their return to the United States.


It was also advised that visitors wear a liberal amount of insect repellent during their time in Rio, and continue to use it for at least three weeks upon their return to the USA. This is because people may return infected, but not actually show signs of sickness for several weeks. As a result, transmission from their body to another person after being bitten by mosquitos is possible.

From the CDC:

“Current recommendations, based on CDC’s guidance for any area with active Zika transmission, include these:

  • Women who are pregnant
    • Consider not going to the Olympics.
    • If you must go to the Olympics, talk to your doctor healthcare provider first; if you travel, you should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip.
    • If you have a male partner who goes to the Olympics, you may be at risk for sexual transmission of Zika. Either use condoms the right way, every time, or do not have sex during your pregnancy.
  • Women who are trying to become pregnant
    • Before you travel, talk to your health care provider about your plans to become pregnant and the risk of Zika virus infection during your trip.
    • You and your male partner should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites.

People considering travel should also refer to CDC’s travel notice “Zika Virus in South America” for additional information: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/alert/zika-virus-south-america.”

Those wishing to attend the Olympics in Rio, either as a participant or spectator, should be well aware of the risk they are taking by taking part.



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