As the Zika virus continues to spread across the Americas, including recently to the United States, the Center for Disease Control issued a statement Friday advising women who are pregnant to “consider not going to the Olympics,” which will take place this summer in Brazil, the epicenter of the virus’s outbreak.
The organization provided guidelines that cautioned pregnant women to stay away from the Rio de Janeiro Games, as well as warning those with a male partner attending the event to “use condoms the right way, every time, or do not have sex during your pregnancy” because of the risk for sexual transmission of Zika.
It also encouraged pregnant women, and those trying to become pregnant, to talk to their health-care provider and follow the CDC’s steps to prevent mosquito bites if they are planning to attend the Games . The virus, which primarily is spread by mosquito, can cause “serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes,” according to a prior travel notice issued by the organization.
The CDC’s warning comes on the heels of a statement from the International Olympic Committee’s medical director, Richard Budgett, who told the Associated Press earlier this month that “everything that can be done is being done,” while reiterating that there are no plans to postpone the Games.
“Our priority is to protect the health of the athletes,” Budgett said. “The IOC absolutely is not complacent. We do take this very seriously.”
More than 500 Americans are expected to compete in Brazil this summer, roughly half of them women. And the risk of contracting the virus is already causing some U.S. athletes to question whether they will attend, most prominently, U.S. women’s soccer goalie Hope Solo.