The 2016 Summer Olympics begin Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — but not all eyes are on the athletes. With the Zika virus spreading throughout South America, some athletes and even media personnel are skipping the Rio Olympics.
Top golfers like Jason Day and Rory McIlroy, as well as skier Lindsey Vonn, have dropped out of the games over concerns of Zika. And while over 17,000 athletes, volunteers and staff have tested negative for the virus, fears are rampant as the Rio Summer Olympics approach.
What Is the Zika Virus?
Named after the Zika Forest in Uganda, the Zika virus spreads primarily through mosquito bites, though other means of transmission are common. Infected men can pass Zika through sex and a pregnant woman can pass the virus onto her fetus. Zika symptoms are flu-like and include fever, joint pain and rash, with the disease itself lasting between several days to one week.
The Zika virus is not an inherently lethal disease and people rarely get sick enough to go to the hospital. But the Zika virus does pose a serious threat to pregnant women because it can cause severe birth defects, such as brain abnormalities. Stillbirth and miscarriage are also possible.
These risks are the reason “Today” anchor Savannah Guthrie decided to skip on the Olympics. The CDC recommended pregnant athletes reconsider attending the Olympics and advised women trying to become pregnant to take extra precautions.
Cost of the Zika Virus
The Zika virus hit home earlier this year when a June 29 report by the Department of Health announced 310 human cases of Zika in New York — all of which were travel related. With the International Olympic Committee predicting 480,000 tourists from around the world visiting Rio for the games, the worldwide cost for treating and preventing the virus is rising.
Zika has spread throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. As early as February, the World Bank Group made $150 million available for immediate support for these regions. Taking into account lost productivity, loss from death, direct outlays and cost of avoiding the virus, the World Bank estimates the cost of the Zika virus for Brazil alone will be $310 million. The worldwide cost could be as high as $3.48 billion.
Incredibly, the cost of Zika is a drop in the bucket compared to the $9.7 billion Brazil is spending to host the 2016 Olympic Games. Yet Brazil faces hard economic times and has even asked Olympic athletes to pay for air conditioning in their dorm rooms to help offset costs.
The Zika virus is also affecting tourism. A survey released by Travel Leaders Group showed 3.9 percent of travelers delayed, canceled or altered travel plans due to the Zika virus. American Airlines even offered refunds to pregnant women and their travel companions who purchased tickets to Latin America or the Caribbean before March 31.
Athletes Skipping the 2016 Olympic Games
Among the latest athletes to skip this year’s Olympics is Lindsey Vonn of the US Ski Team. At a July 12 event hosted by Under Armour, she told PEOPLE, “I was going to go, but I think with the Zika and everything, it’s probably just better that I watch from home.”
Here’s a list of some of the biggest names that have backed out of participating in the Summer Olympics:
|Olympic Athletes Who Dropped Out|
|Olympic Athlete||Olympic Sport||Reason for Withdrawing|
|Anthony Davis||Basketball||Knee surgery|
|Chris Paul||Basketball||Other reasons|
|Dennis Kimetto||Athletics – Marathon||Heat and humidity|
|Dominic Thiem||Tennis||Other reasons|
|Dustin Johnson||Golf||Zika virus|
|Jason Day||Golf||Zika virus|
|Jordan Spieth||Golf||Zika virus, other reasons|
|LeBron James||Basketball||Other reasons|
|Lindsey Vonn||Skiing||Zika virus|
|Marc Leishman||Golf||Zika virus|
|Nick Kyrgios||Tennis||Other reasons|
|Rory McIlroy||Golf||Zika virus|
|Tejay van Garderen||Cycling||Zika virus|
|Vijay Singh||Golf||Zika virus|
|Wilson Kipsang||Athletics – Marathon||Scheduling|
President Obama on the Zika Virus
Disclaimer: Due to the spread of the Zika virus, check the Centers for Disease Control website for the latest list of countries with active virus transmission before traveling overseas.