by Catherine Tims
The State of Delaware recently announced its fifth case of the Zika virus. That same day, a student at the University of Alabama tested positive for Zika. And although there have only been three Zika-related cases of microcephaly in the U.S. so far, these reports are enough to make Americans stop and think about how they could be affected, specifically if traveling to the Summer Olympic Games.
The CDC Warns Pregnant Women to Stay Home
The CDC first issued Zika-related travel warnings this past January, in which it warned that pregnant women should not travel to areas with widespread cases of the Zika virus.
Although only a fifth of people who get Zika see any symptoms, the danger lies in what it can do to a unborn child. The virus been linked to microcephaly, a terrible condition where a child is born with a very small head, causing brain damage and sometimes death.
This CDC warning has people wondering about the Summer Olympic Games, since they’re being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil later this summer. Zika is a big problem in Brazil, where instances of microcephaly have increased significantly. There’s even a special page on the CDC website dedicated to 2016 Summer Olympics information. This section includes a clear warning for pregnant women, urging them to skip the events altogether.
But what about the rest of us? Should we go? And what about the athletes? What are they saying?
Zika Can Linger in a Traveler’s Body for a Week – or Longer
The problem for U.S. citizens is that if they visit a location where Zika is rampant, they risk bringing the virus back home with them. The CDC informs us that the virus can stay active for about a week – sometimes longer – once someone comes in contact with Zika.
That information, combined with the fact that many people don’t even know they’ve contracted the virus, is making people worry about the state of public health. This is a main reason why some have decided to completely skip the Olympic Games this summer; they simply don’t want to put loved ones back home in danger upon their return.
What Do the Athletes Think?
There’s a very wide range of reactions among the Olympic athletes themselves. First, there’s Usain Bolt, an Olympic gold medalist, who jokes that he’s not worried because he can outrun the mosquitoes that carry Zika.
Others are showing more serious concerns. The husband of Maria Michta-Coffey will skip the games while his wife competes. They plan on starting a family after the Olympics are over.
And while many athletes insist they’ll still compete, others are now starting to drop out. Recently, a cyclist was the first U.S. athlete to announce he’d be staying home from the Olympic Games because of Zika-related concerns. His wife is currently pregnant.
While the risk of attending the Olympic Games may not be solely individual, there still remains the risk of spreading Zika across the world once the competition is over.
Tell us: Are you concerned about Zika and the effects it can have in the United States? If you were an Olympic athlete, would Zika-related concerns cause you to drop out of the Games?