Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Gov't has Zika plan for athletes

Published:Friday | January 22, 2016 | 1:51 AMLeighton Levy
Neita-Headley


When it comes to the Zika virus, pregnant women are not the only persons the government is concerned about.

   This summer Jamaica will send a strong contingent to the Olympic Games in Brazil where in 2015 there were just under 3000 cases of the virus that manifests in symptoms similar to yellow fever and dengue.  The virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

The outbreak hit mostly the Brazilian northeast region, but cases have been reported as far south as Rio de Janeiro, where the Olympic Games will be held this coming August. Working on the assumption that Jamaica’s athletes do not contract the virus while training here in Jamaica, they would run the risk of contracting it while preparing to compete while in Brazil.

This has become a concern for the government that is expecting another outstanding performance from its elite athletes in what will be Usain Bolt’s final Olympic campaign. As such they are taking steps to minimise the possibilities of the virus affecting the nation’s athletes.

“We have been looking at it. It has occurred to us, we have been having discussions with the Ministry of Health," said Minister Natalie Neita-Headley, who has responsibility for sport. “They (officials at the ministry of health) have been having planning sessions looking at sensitising our athletes."

"As much as can be done, we will seek to do it,” the sports minister said.

About one in five people infected with the Zika virus become ill. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis. Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. If an athlete contracts the virus and it develops into full blown Zika just prior to competition, it will affect the athlete’s performance.

In the meantime, track clubs here are doing what they can to protect the athletes but there are limitations. President of MVP Bruce James revealed that several athletes from his club contracted the Chikungunya virus last year as they prepared for the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China. Like then, James said, the club had put protocols in place to minimise the impact of the virus but as was the case then, there is only so much they can do.