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Olympics, the Zika Virus and Golf

mosquito-circHow important are the Olympic Games for golfers?  That’s the question for players as some have already made the decision not to go to Rio and others are still considering.  Some of the biggest names in golf have opted out – Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordon Spieth, and Rory McIlroy, the top 4 professional golfers in the world.  On the other hand, our Champion Golfer of the Year – winner of The Open – Henrik Stenson has been quoted as saying he is not afraid of mosquitoes and will attend.  So what is it about the Zika Virus that keeps some away?

 

Zika Virus

I have included some FAQs from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website that should clear up some of the controversy.  Since most of these professional golfers are youthful and still (or about to be) in the “family-making” business there are some obvious risks and limitations the Zika virus presents if infected.  Interestingly, no woman golfer has opted to drop out from the competition that I am aware of.  In fact, a few weeks ago the LPGA made a statement to that effect.

Q: What is Zika?

A: Zika virus disease is caused by the Zika virus, which is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting up to a week, and many people do not have symptoms or will have only mild symptoms. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly and other severe brain defects.

Q: How do people get infected with Zika?

A: Zika is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus). A pregnant woman can pass Zika to her fetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth. Also, a man with Zika can pass it to sex partners. We encourage people who have traveled to or live in places with Zika to protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites and sexual transmission of Zika.

Q: What health problems can result from getting Zika?

A: Many people infected with Zika will have no symptoms or mild symptoms that last several days to a week. However, Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), an uncommon sickness of the nervous system, is also very likely triggered by Zika in a small number of cases.

Once someone has been infected with Zika, it’s very likely they’ll be protected from future infections. There is no evidence that past Zika infection poses an increased risk of birth defects in future pregnancies.

Q: Should pregnant women travel to areas where Zika has been confirmed?

A: No. Pregnant women should not travel to any area with Zika. Travelers who go to places with outbreaks of Zika can be infected with Zika, and Zika infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects.

Q: If I am traveling outside the United States, should I be concerned about Zika?

A: Travelers who go to places with Zika can be infected with Zika, and CDC has issued travel notices for people traveling to those areas. Many people will have mild or no symptoms. However, Zika can cause microcephaly and other severe birth defects. For this reason, pregnant women should not travel to any area with Zika, and women trying to get pregnant should talk to their doctors before traveling or before their male partners travel. It is especially important that women who wish to delay or avoid pregnancy consistently use the most effective method of birth control that they are able to use. Those traveling to areas with Zika should take steps during and after they travel to prevent mosquito bites and sexual transmission of Zika.

Q: What can people do to prevent Zika?

A: The best way to prevent Zika is to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites:

Zika can be spread by men to their sex partners. People whose male sex partners have traveled to or live in an area with Zika can prevent Zika by using condoms condoms correctly every time they have sex or by not having sex.

Q: What are the symptoms of Zika virus disease?

A: The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. Other symptoms include muscle pain and headache. Many people infected with Zika won’t have symptoms or will have mild symptoms, which can last for several days to a week.

Q: How is Zika diagnosed?

A: To diagnose Zika, your doctor will ask you about recent travel and symptoms you may have, and collect blood or urine to test for Zika or similar viruses.

Q: Can someone who returned from a country or US territory with Zika get tested for the virus?

A: Zika virus testing is performed at CDC and some state and territorial health departments. See your doctor if you have Zika symptoms and have recently visited an area with Zika. Your doctor may order tests to look for Zika or similar viruses like dengue and chikungunya.

Q:What should pregnant women who have recently traveled to an area with Zika do?

A: Pregnant women who have recently traveled to an area with Zika should talk to their doctor about their travel, even if they don’t feel sick. Pregnant women should see a doctor if they have any Zika symptoms during their trip or within 2 weeks after traveling. All pregnant women can protect themselves by avoiding travel to an area with Zika, preventing mosquito bites, and following recommended precautions against getting Zika through sex.

To Go or Not To Go

I suppose the decision to go is at its core a personal one and comes down to the level of risk one is willing to take on.  Rio is in the hot zone for Zika-carrying mosquitoes and I for one completely understand if an athlete declines based on their concerns.  To compete for one’s country is an honor and a privilege, but it is not a requirement or a duty.  These are professional athletes and are allowed to make personal decisions for themselves regarding their health and the health of their families.

 

(Picture of Mosquito from CDC&P Website)

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