Canada’s Annamay Pierse, who is the world record holder in the 200 breaststroke, left the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India with two lovely gifts: A bronze medal in the 400 medley relay, and a nasty case of Dengue Fever.
Dengue fever is an extremely painful disease, usually transmitted through mosquito bites, that causes fevers, headaches, and really awful joint and muscle pain. A recent outbreak in India has had over 1600 people admitted to hospitals and treated, including at least 27 dead.
With the athletes’ village being located so close to the Yamuna River, huge mosquito populations were a major problem in the post-September Monsoon Season floods.
Though event organizers officially reported only a single case of a mosquito-borne illness (a Nigerian table tennis player who contracted Malaria), Pierse’s diagnosis did not become apparent until returning to Canada. Unlike malaria, there is no preventative medicine available for dengue. Pierse is expected to make a full recovery, but is uncertain if she will be healthy in time to resume training for the upcoming Short Course World Championships in Dubai. She was overall disappointed in her Commonwealth performance, after a 5th place finish in her signature event, the 200 breast. Many other athletes were similarly disappointed in their times after being struck with various intestinal illnesses, like the now-infamous “Delhi Belly”.
A tweet from Pierse’s account made on Friday confirmed that “Yes it has been confirmed Dengue fever has been the cause of my horrific pain!! Now I need to get better stat!!”
This is the third frightening reminder in as many weeks that FINA, the IOC, the Commonwealth of Nations, etc. need to be much more prudent with their selections of host cities for major international sporting events. It’s unfair for these athletes to have to travel to these exotic locations and risk life and health to compete for Championships. If anything, these organizations are shooting themselves in the foot, as athletes will surely think twice before participating in future events, given the disaster that was the Delhi Games.