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Olympic Gold Medalist Will Compete in Rio Despite Carrying Zika Virus

A Jamaican Olympic gold medalist has announced that he is carrying the Zika virus, but will continue to train and hopes to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics this August in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

Kemar Bailey-Cole says he is currently suffering from rashes and mild joint pain, the tell-tale symptoms of the viral disease, but continues to train and expects to perform in Rio. “I am a little worried but I am not letting that get in front of me. I am just praying that I get the strength to carry me through the rounds,” he said in an interview with Jamaican newspaper Gleaner.

“Recovering is not easy because as we speak, the rashes are still on my body. My eyes hurt, but the best thing is that I am not feeling any muscle pain at the moment,” he added. He noted, however, that the muscle pain was mild enough that he dismissed it as exercise soreness before getting a haircut, revealing a lump on his neck.

“It is very disappointing but as I said earlier, I was training with it and didn’t know, so I still got in some work but not how I wanted it… (I am) just going to trials with the mindset that I am healthy and ready,” he concluded.

Bailey-Cole is the first athlete known to be training to compete while carrying Zika. South America and the Caribbean are currently in the throes of a Zika epidemic that has affected tens of thousands, with its epicenter in Brazil. Bailey-Cole appears to have contracted Zika in Jamaica, however, which has documented numerous Zika cases. Jamaican doctors sounded the alarm in February, lamenting a lack of concern among the general population and releasing a dancehall reggae song to promote awareness.

Bailey-Cole has also suffered from Chikunyunga, a disease also transmitted through the aedes aegypti virus. In addition to Zika and Chikunyunga, the mosquito can carry Dengue fever and yellow fever.

Most Zika patients – about 80 percent – do not experience any symptoms. Those who do experience mild joint pain, conjunctivitis, and rashes. While Zika causes mild symptoms in adults, it can have devastating consequences when present in the bloodstream of a pregnant woman. Zika has been known to cause a number of birth defects in newborns, most commonly microcephaly, a condition in which infants are born with brains too large for their skulls, crushing vital parts of the brain.

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