Kenya has said it might pull out of this year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, if the current Zika virus outbreak is not contained before the global event, set for August.
Zira virus has been declared a global public health emergency by the World Health Organization, and has been linked to thousands of babies being born with birth defects, such as underdeveloped brains and small heads.
Zika virus is caused by Aedes Oegypti, a mosquito that has for long been associated with yellow fever, and thrives in built up areas, laying its eggs its eggs in small pools of water such as in gutters and flower pots.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), pregnant women and women who might get pregnant are at greatest risk of contracting the virus that has so far no vaccine, with the only treatment being eradication of mosquito populations and prevention of mosquito bites.
Brazil has been the hardest hit nation by the virus outbreak and many South American countries, even as the local Olympic organizing committee remains defiant that the virus will not affect the summer game, which will be the first to be held in South America.
National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) chair, Kipchoge Keino, on Tuesday told Reuters that Kenya would not take its athletes to Rio if the virus got to epidemic levels, adding that they were first seeking assurances from the games organizers.
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While playing down Keino’s words, NOCK’s Chef de Mission to Rio, Stephen Soi said it was too early to make the decision as the games are six months away, adding that he might have been misquoted.
Kenya is the first nation to consider a possible a boycott over the virus. Other nations including Australia, New Zealand and Thailand have said they would understand if any of their athletes wished to withdraw from the games.
The possible absence of Kenya in the Rio Games will be a major blow as it has some of the best athletes in the middle and long-distance races who are major star attractions at global athletics events.
“I do not believe the occurrence of the Zika virus will compromise the 2016 Games,” Eduardo Paes, the Rio Mayor told The Independent, even as sports federations across the world scramble to know more about the Zika virus, as they continue preparations for the games.
United States female footballer, Hope Solo became the first athlete to voice her reservations for the Rio Games, adding that if she was to make a choice today, she would not go.
China reported the first case of the virus outside America and authorities in Brazil are undertaking countrywide campaigns to eradicate the mosquito, in readiness for the 2016 Olympic Games, set for 5-21 August, this year.