USA Basketball officials announced they have canceled a trip to Senegal this month because of concerns about the Ebola virus. The World Health Organization has called the deadly disease a “public health emergency of international concern,” which USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo tells ESPN’s Marc Stein left him no choice but to cancel the August 27 trip to the West African nation.
“Although the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] does not yet suspect any cases in Senegal, the country’s position as a neighboring country to Guinea and Dakar’s role as a gateway to West Africa heightened our concern,” Colangelo told ESPN. “I speak for all at USA Basketball when I say we’re extremely disappointed we will not be able to visit Senegal. Our entire traveling party was very much looking forward to the experience.”
The choice is cautionary, but most likely necessary, as the WHO’s latest stance says the outbreak, which has so far been linked to almost 1,100 deaths, has been “vastly underestimated.” Per Washington Post reporter Abby Phillip:
Experts fear that there are many unreported deaths and undiagnosed cases that not only mask the true impact of the virus, but make it more difficult to bring the outbreak under control.
“Elsewhere, the outbreak is expected to continue for some time. WHO’s operational response plan extends over the next several months,” the organization said.
Besides stopping Team USA from traveling to West Africa on Aug. 27, the outbreak has also halted West African athletes from traveling elsewhere. Phillip continues:
[F]ears have caused the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban three West Africans who compete in combat and pool events at the upcoming Youth Olympics games in China this weekend as a precaution. Ebola is spread through contact with bodily fluids of an infected person.
“We have been reassured by the health authorities that there have been no suspected cases and that the risk of infection is extremely unlikely,” the IOC statement said. But, it said it could not completely rule out the risk of infection, particularly in pool sports.
“We regret that due to this issue some young athletes may have suffered twice, both from the anguish caused by the outbreak in their home countries and by not being able to compete in the Youth Olympic Games,” the IOC added.