As Zika Virus Spreads, Athletes Voice Concerns Over Safety at Rio 2016 Olympics

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Zika – the mosquito-borne virus that’s been tied to microcephaly – has been causing added stress for athletes scheduled to take center stage at Rio 2016 this summer.

“For me it’s very worrying,” said Aline Silva, a Brazilian wrestler who’s had dengue fever twice and isn’t looking to take any chances with the new disease that’s been declared a global emergency. “Really, the biggest problem is in training and competing – when I can’t use [repellent]. I have had dengue twice, so I am aware about all of this. Maybe I am more worried than most.” You can count on Silva applying repellent about every 90 minutes when she’s away from home.

Aline Silva
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Adeline Gray, three-time world champion American wrestler and a favorite for gold, also expressed concern, particularly in light of a ban from her coach that prohibits her from swimming during her stay in Brazil. “Unfortunately we’re not spending too much time outside,” she said. “We’re wearing long sleeves, long pants, and just making sure we have on as much bug spray as we can.”

She importantly noted that concerns have to subside in order for athletes to be able to compete at their best levels. “This anxiety has to kind of subside so you can focus on what you are doing. If you are worried about that in the back of your mind, then you’re not doing your job well enough.”

Olympic organizers have been searching for venues where standing water might breed mosquitos, and spokesman Mario Andrada says inspections of this nature will continue until opening day. It’s a scary reality, especially (and primarily) for pregnant women with a lack of reproductive rights in the region. But Jacques Wagner – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s chief of staff – has assured all other potential visitors and fans that there is no risk to their safety. “We have to explain to those coming to Brazil, the athletes, that there is zero risk if you are not a pregnant woman,” he told Reuters.