HARARE - Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (Zoc) has raised fears for women travelling for the Rio Olympics in Brazil where the deadly Zika virus has left more than 4 000 newborns with shrunken heads and infected at least 1,5 million people.
Zoc is set to send at least 25 athletes to Brazil.
Female athletes in the team include the Zimbabwe women football team, multiple Olympic medallists Kirsty Coventry, rower Micheen Thornycroft and UK-based horsewoman Camilla Kruger.
The mosquito-borne virus has been spreading like a veld fire since it was first reported in Brazil back in May 2015.
Female spectators and athletes of childbearing age are being warned by medical professionals around the world to consider trips to Brazil ‘‘carefully’’ ahead of the Olympic Games this August.
“The issue of the Zika virus is of grave concern to all national associations who have teams or potential teams or athletes planning to travel to Rio for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games,” Zoc medical commission chair Margie Gibson said yesterday.
“Zoc will continue to monitor this issue and provide the national associations with updates. The safety and well-being of our athletes is of paramount importance.”
WHO warned last week that the mosquito-borne virus was “spreading explosively” in the Americas, and said the region could see up to four million Zika cases this year alone.
However, organisers of the biggest multi-sport extravaganza said they are taking precautions to protect participants.
“A plan has already been put in place for the games venues in the lead-up to and at games time, which will see them inspected on a daily basis in order to ensure that any puddles of stagnant water — where the mosquitoes breed — are removed, therefore minimising the risk of athletes and visitors coming into contact with mosquitoes,” the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said in statement sent out to all national Olympic committees on January 29.
“Rio 2016 will also continue to follow the virus prevention and control measures provided by the authorities, and will provide the relevant guidance to games athletes and visitors.
“It is also important to note that the Rio 2016 games will take place during the winter months of August and September, when the drier, cooler climate significantly reduces the presence of mosquitos and therefore the risk of infection.”