Rio de Janeiro:
Aline Silva has had the dengue fever twice, and she’s not taking any chances with the Zika virus.
Silva is a Brazilian wrestler who hopes to win an Olympic medal in just over six months in Rio de Janeiro. At a test event on Sunday for the Games at a venue in Rio’s new Olympic Park, she wasn’t alone in being concerned.
Several non-Brazilian athletes talked about slathering on mosquito repellent, staying in their hotel rooms and away from the water and the beaches in order to avoid mosquitoes.
Brazil is an epicenter of the rapidly spreading Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease that Brazilian scientists say is linked to a rare birth defect.
The growing international health emergency around Zika could scare athletes and fans from coming to South America’s first Olympics as organizers prepare for hundreds of thousands of visitors.
“For me it’s very worrying,” said Silva, who said she applies repellent about every 90 minutes when she’s away from home. “Really, the biggest problem is in training and competing when I can’t use it (repellent),” she said. “I have had dengue twice, so I am aware about all of this. Maybe I am more worried than most.”
Asked if other Brazilian athletes were concerned about Zika, Silva replied: “Yes, of course.”
American wrestler Adeline Gray, a three-time world champion who will be an Olympic favorite for gold, raised the issue of Zika’s link to birth defects and cases of babies being born with unusually small heads and possible brain damage.
“I think if I was planning to have a child next month, I would be extremely uneasy about this,” said Gray, who competes in the 75-kilogram class. “Maybe that would have changed my decision (to come here).”