LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – In just over a month, the world will turn its attention to Rio for the Summer Olympic Games, and the next few weeks are going to be vital for athletes finalizing their spot on U.S. teams.
As participants qualify, there might be a looming question: Will a mosquito-borne virus affect their quest for a medal?
Zika has quickly become a concern for Olympic athletes around the world. The effects of the virus are mild for most— a fever, rash, joint pains or red eyes. However, the story is much different for unborn children. There are serious birth defects possible if the mother is infected with the virus that can be transmitted sexually.
“It’s really on women. We are the most greatly affected. Anybody who’s looking to grow their family, start a family,” says American runner Alysia Montano.
Last month, the number of Zika cases among pregnant women more than tripled, and while a gold medal could be the ultimate goal, many hopeful Olympians are keeping a close eye on the topic.
Montano carefully takes into consideration her health. Two years ago, she ran pregnant with a doctor’s permission.
“I would be very ignorant to say that ‘oh, I’m just going regardless,’ because I do need to weigh the pros and cons, and you know family is first,” Montano adds.
American golfer Stacy Lewis agreed Zika is concerning, but the spread of the virus worldwide and the prestige of the Olympics make her choice easier.
“I have thought about the Zika virus, and all of those kind of things down there. But now the Zika virus is everywhere. It was never even an option for me to skip it,” Lewis says.
Fellow golfer Lexi Thompson is trusting Olympic officials when it comes to taking care of Zika.
“I’m not really concerned at all, I’m more focused on the competition that week and the experience of the Olympics,” says Thompson.
Concerned or not, the Zika virus is making an impact on the upcoming Summer Olympic Games.