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WHO Doesn't See Zika As Risk For Olympics But Golfers Are Skipping Anyway

Five golf stars have stated that due to fear of contracting the disease, they will not participate in the Rio games.

Posted on June 28, 2016, at 5:30 p.m. ET

There has been a stampede of golfers planning on coming to the Rio in August, the first time in 112 years that the sport will be in the Olympics.

General view of Hole 2 at the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro
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General view of Hole 2 at the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro

However, at least five of the world's top-ranked golfers will be skipping the Olympics because of the Zika virus.

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South African Branden Grace announced on Friday that he is off the national team. He stated that he is planning on getting married in November and is thinking of his family's health over everything else.

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Days before Grace, Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy made the same announcement. McIlroy is ranked fourth in the world and has said that he made his decision based on Zika.

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Nevertheless, it seems like McIlroy wasn't all that afraid of the virus when he and his girlfriend went on a beach vacation of Barbados, which has also experienced cases of Zika, in May.

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Golfer Vijay Singh, of Fiji, has previously been rated the best in the world. He's also already asked to have his named scratched off the list of competitors.

He told the Golf Channel that he'd like to go to Rio, but "they have Zika and all that crap."

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The other golfers who have dropped out claiming fear of contracting the virus are Marc Leishman of Australia and Charl Schwartzel of South Africa. Schwartzel said he wants to have more children and fears the effects of the virus. Other golfers have withdrawn from participation in the Games, but did not mention Zika.

According to the latest Ministry of Health report, this year there have been reported 138,100 cases of fever caused by Zika virus. Of these, 38,100 were in Rio de Janeiro.

To see if the argument golfers makes sense, BuzzFeed Brazil contacted the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), an agency that works with the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the organization, the recommendation to avoid Brazil is only for pregnant women. In Brazil, there were 1,600 cases of microencephaly since the outbreak began last year.

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In the last meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO), leaders again ruled out the possibility of suspending the Olympic Games because of the virus.

Chairman of the World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Committee, Professor David L. Heymann
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Chairman of the World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Committee, Professor David L. Heymann

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This is what PAHO/WHO told BuzzFeed Brazil about the disease:

  • The Zika virus is already in 60 countries of the world and therefore "there is no public health justification for postponing or canceling the Games."
  • The Olympics take place in August. As it is winter in the Southern hemisphere during the Games, there's a lower risk of being bitten by the mosquito Aedes aegypti, which transmits the virus.
  • Brazilians and visitors have to take care with repellent and cover most of their body with clothes.
  • They also advised to use a condom when having sex, as there have been confirmed cases of Zika transmitted by semen, as in Italy and France. Therefore, many athletes are concerned.
  • Another suggestion from WHO is to abstain from sex during the Games and the following four weeks to avoid transmitting the virus to their partner.
  • Avoid places where sanitation is poor and there is more risk of being bitten by mosquito.

The Rio 2016 Committee, which oversees the Olympics, told BuzzFeed Brazil that they're following WHO guidelines on Zika and those of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

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The medical director of the Rio Committee, João Granjeiro, has given talks and meetings to try to quell the fear among the athletes and the public about the Zika virus.

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According to the organizers of the event, daily inspections are carried out on the premises of the Games, which will continue until the end of the event.


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