Zika virus daunting, says Olympian

Rio Zika virus

The Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro is one of the hosting venues for this year’s Olympics

British Olympians have described the rapid spread of the Zika virus in Brazil as “devastating and “daunting”.

Brazilian authorities said there was no risk to athletes and spectators, except pregnant women, at the Rio Olympics which runs from 5-21 August.

“If it was me I’d be in a very uncomfortable situation,” said ex-world badminton champion Gail Emms.

Modern pentathlete Samantha Murray is set to compete in Rio and has been given assurances by Team GB doctors.

She said: “It is scary and daunting.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the virus a global public health emergency.

“It’s just devastating because this is something that’s your dream and you want it to go perfectly,” added Emms, 38, who won silver at the Athens Games in 2004. “You would feel frustrated, angry, and really worried about your friends and family.

“When I was going to Beijing [Olympics] I was 31 years old and I knew that was my last tournament before retiring, and I wanted to start a family. That would be playing on my mind.

“As a mother I can only hope the best solution can be found quickly. I see the pictures and reports and I cry. It’s just absolutely devastating.”

The Rio 2016 organising committee has raised concerns about the rapid spread of the infection.

But a spokesperson said the Rio organisers have not yet seen evidence of people cancelling travel to the Games.

Communications director Mario Andrada added they will follow travel guidelines issued by WHO.

Olympic silver medallist Murray told BBC Sport: “It is scary and daunting when looking at the news.

“It puts fear in everyone but as an athlete you get used to travelling around the world where you are at risk of infection. We have been assured by experts and Team GB and BOA that everything is being done to prepare the team.

“I have a chance at a second Olympics and I believe in the team around me and the medical team. I know I will be as best prepared. Hopefully I can be on the podium again.”

David Sparkes , chief executive of British Swimming, said: “British Swimming is fully engaged with all relevant authorities and continues to brief the team based on the very latest advice.

“We will fully implement all advised measures, such as bite prevention strategies, to ensure the health and wellbeing of the team as this is our highest priority. This information will be continually reviewed and updated.”


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