Zika Virus: Should U.S. Skip Rio Olympics?
That drastic move appears to be a serious consideration.
In a message delivered via conference call in late January, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) told U.S. sports federations that athletes and staff concerned for their health over the Zika virus should consider not going to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in August.
Federations were told that no one should go to Brazil "if they don't feel comfortable going. Bottom line," said Donald Anthony, president and board chairman of USA Fencing.
The USOC’s briefing to sport federations is the latest sign that Olympics officials are taking the Zika threat to the games in Rio de Janeiro seriously, and acknowledging that at least some athletes and support staff could face a tough decision over whether to attend.
Speaking about the conference call, Anthony, a former Olympian, said: "One of the things that they immediately said was, especially for women who may be pregnant or even thinking of getting pregnant, that whether you are [currently] scheduled to go to Rio or not -- that you shouldn't go."
Zika outbreaks have been reported in 33 countries. Symptoms of infection often are mild or imperceptible. But the outbreak in Brazil that began last year has been accompanied by more than 4,000 cases of suspected microcephaly; investigators have confirmed more than 400. The link to Zika is unproven but strongly suspected.
The United States won the most medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, so any disruption to its presence would have to be considered a detriment to the Rio games.