Kemar Bailey-Cole, who ran alongside Usain Bolt on Jamaica’s gold medal-winning 4×100-meter relay team at the 2012 London Olympics, has revealed that he is suffering from the Zika virus. Bailey-Cole was in the running for a spot on Jamaica’s sprint-relay team at this year’s Rio Games, but now that’s in doubt.
“I didn’t know I had it until I went to get a haircut,” he told The Gleaner, a Jamaican publication. “After cleaning up, my girlfriend realized a bump was on my neck, which was a lymph node. But long story short, I didn’t know I had the virus and I have been training with it for like three days now.
“I was experiencing back pains and muscle soreness, but I thought it was just soreness from the exercises I was doing,” Bailey-Cole added. “It is very disappointing, but as I said earlier, I was training with it and didn’t know, so I still got in some work but not how I wanted it. [I am] just going to trials with the mind-set that I am healthy and ready.”
As for his chances of recovery in time for Rio?
“I am a little worried, but I am not letting that get in front of me,” he said. “I am just praying that I get the strength to carry me through the rounds. Recovering is not easy because as we speak, the rashes are still on my body. My eyes hurt, but the best thing is that I am not feeling any muscle pain at the moment.”
The Gleaner did not say how Bailey-Cole had contracted the virus, which can be transmitted either via mosquito bite or sexual activity. Jamaica’s Olympic track trials are next week, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says local mosquito transmission of the virus has been reported in the country.
Bailey-Cole missed most of the 2015 track season after contacting the Chikungunya virus, which also is borne by mosquitos and causes fever, rashes and joint pain, symptoms that can last months or even years.
World health officials have advised pregnant women or women who hope to become pregnant not to travel to Rio because of the Zika virus, which can cause birth defects and has become prevalent in Brazil. This week, star golfer Rory McIlroy announced he would not be playing in the Olympics because of Zika concerns, joining a number of other golfers who have made similar decisions. McIlroy recently got engaged and said he intends to start a family in the near future, so he did not want to jeopardize the health of his fiancee.