In the latest step taken in response to the Zika virus outbreak in the geographic region surrounding Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the site of the 2016 Olympic Games, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has hired two infectious disease specialists to consult on the matter.
In addition, just yesterday, February 10th, USOC CEO Scott Blackmun sent an open memo addressed all potential Olympians acknowledging the growing concerns regarding the virus, known to be carried via mosquito and linked to a specific birth defect. “I know that the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil is of concern to many of you,” the memo reads. “I want to emphasize that it is to us, as well, and that your well-being in Rio this summer is our highest priority.”
The letter to prospective U.S. Olympic roster members also says that, “no matter how much we prepare … there will always be risk associated with international competition. Each country, each venue and each discipline will present different risks and require different mitigation strategies.”
For most of the world’s general population, the Zika virus results in rashes, joint pain, conjunctivitis and fevers. However, pregnant women or those women considering getting pregnant run the risk of the Zika virus causing microcephaly, the birth defect rendering the baby born with an abnormally small head.
The USOC’s letter comes just days after conflicting reports about what the Committee has heretofore communicated to the nation’s federations.
As reported by Reuters, the USOC communicated via conference call in late January that the “athletes and staff concerned for their health over the Zika virus should consider not going to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in August.”
According to Inside the Games, however, the USOC has denied it told athletes and staff concerned about the Zika virus that they should consider not attending this year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Instead, the organization reportedly said they ‘simply briefed participants before distributing guidance issued by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).’
Ongoing, the USOC will post updates to its website at USOC.org/RioTravelUpdates and athletes are encouraged to seek their personal physicians or their delegation’s chief medical officer for additional information.
You can read the Blackmun’s letter in its entirety here.