Detroit Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez said he contracted the Zika virus over the off-season in his home country of Venezuela and advises athletes to educate themselves on the virus before heading to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Zika is a mosquito-borne virus linked to severe birth defects and possible neurological problems in adults. The MLB star, often known simply as K-Rod, told ESPN on Tuesday that he wouldn’t blame athletes for skipping the Olympics.
Last week, leading health experts said the ongoing Zika virus outbreak in Brazil is so dangerous that the games should be moved or at least postponed.
“It’s something people have to be careful with and worry about,” Rodriguez said. “There’s no vaccine for it. It’s not like you take a shot and [improve]. … It could be global.”
Rodriguez was bedridden for about two weeks with head and body aches, sore joints and other symptoms. It took about two months until he felt normal again.
In addition to Rodriguez, a group of 150 prominent scientists, doctors and medical ethicists wrote an open letter urging reconsideration of the Rio Olympics. “We agree with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommendation that workers should consider ‘delaying travel to areas with active Zika virus transmission,'” the letter states. “If that advice were followed uniformly, no athlete would have to choose between risking disease and participating in a competition that many have trained for their whole lives.”
The letter, directed to World Health Organization Director Dr. Margaret Chan, warns that the Rio Olympics could become ground zero for a global crisis. Scientists worry about the possibility of travelers getting infected with Zika while in Rio, which they then will spread to their native countries. Over a half million international visitors are estimated to be attending the games.
A number of possible Olympic participants have voiced concerns about Zika recently, including basketball star Pau Gasol, tennis champ Serena Williams and golfer Rory McIlroy.