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U.S. Olympic Committee Hiring Diseases Experts over Zika Virus Fears at Rio Olympics


With fears over the virulent Zika virus rolling across the Western Hemisphere, U.S. Olympics officials have hired a retinue of experts on infectious diseases to advise the committee for the upcoming games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

U.S. Olympics Committee CEO Scott Blackmun sent a letter to athletes and various athletic associations acknowledging the fears over the virus and announcing the new effort to study the situation.


“I know that the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil is of concern to many of you,” Blackmun’s letter states. “I want to emphasize that it is to us, as well, and that your well-being in Rio this summer is our highest priority.”

Blackmun goes on to note that the USOC is “in close contact” with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other specialists with “expertise regarding the Zika virus.”

The letter goes on to report the known facts on risks of Zika as well as the symptoms associated with the virus.

Blackmun’s letter ends, though, warning that risk always comes with gatherings of peoples from around the world.

“No matter how much we prepare,” the statement says, “there will always be risk associated with international competition. Each country, each venue and each discipline will present different risks and require different mitigation strategies.”

Blackmun told the Associated Press the letter was just an effort to alert Olympians to the threat of the virus but was also an attempt to allay those fears.

“First and foremost, we want to make sure our athletes have accurate information because they’re concerned,” Blackmun said. “Based on what we know now, the primary threat is to unborn children.”

The threat of Zika, though, is just one more worry added to health fears for the 2016 Rio Olympians. For well over a year athletes and coaches alike have expressed serious concerns over the pollution problems in the waters the Rio Olympics will use for competition.

Despite claims by Rio’s Olympics officials that pollution has been greatly reduced in the famed Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon, the pollution seems to be as bad as ever. The problem is so bad that athletes are starting to organize. USA Today said “four coaches and 11 members of the U.S. team came down with stomach illnesses at the World Junior Rowing Championships after competing in the lagoon.”

Despite claims the pollution has been addressed, the Associated Press reported that Rio’s Olympic waters are still badly polluted, even far offshore.

Rio has a world of other troubles, too. Recently the lights in the Olympic track and field stadium were shut off because of hundreds of thousands in unpaid electric bills. The water was also shut off over arrears in payment.

Budget woes have been so bad for the games that Rio Olympics officials announced that players and associations would have to pay their own air conditioning bills for their hotel rooms.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at

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