The Zika virus has ravaged Rio and Brazil in general, but little is known about the long-term affects that it can actually have. So, as the world gets ready to head to Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games, it seems like the perfect time to study those traveling there.
One group that will be of particular interest is the United States athletes, coaches and trainers thanks to announcement by the National Institute for Health.
According to their announcement on Tuesday, a subset of those involved with the United States Olympic and Paralympic can be part of a study (if they opt-in) on the long-term affects that the Zika virus may have (if they catch it at all).
“Zika virus infection poses many unknown risks, especially to those of reproductive age,” said Catherine Y. Spong, M.D., acting director of NICHD. “Monitoring the health and reproductive outcomes of members of the U.S. Olympic team offers a unique opportunity to answer important questions and help address an ongoing public health emergency.”
The study aims to get 1,000 participants involved and track the rate of infection, risk factors that increase potential for infection, where the virus persists in the body and for how long in those locations it stays.
However, the biggest study may come from the effects on the reproduction of those infected.
It is largely believed that those who carry the virus and have children are more likely to have a child with birth defects and potentially may not be able to have children at all because of the virus.
The NICHD has already conducted early research, doing a pilot study a few months ago that indicated a third of the 150 athletes (or their partners) who volunteered for the study were planning on having children within a year of the Rio games.
With that information in hand, it seems vital to research and understand the consequences of the Zika virus as quickly as possible.
The scare over the virus has gone worldwide, and many top athletes, including golfers Rory McIlroy and Jason Day, are choosing not to participate based off the information that is readily available about Zika.
There’s even the United States men’s indoor volleyball coach, John Speraw, who is choosing to freeze his sperm ahead of the games to ensure Zika doesn’t enter the equation when he wants to have kids.
Female athletes have also had major reservations about the event, but many still are going with the Olympics representing their highest chance at increasing their own earning power.