RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – JANUARY 17: A general view of the Arena Carioca 1 at the Olympic Park during International Womens Basketball Tournament as a test event for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on January 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

From poor infrastructure to water pollution, the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic organizers have had to overcome numerous obstacles in preparation for the 2016 Games. But the latest hurdle could be the most serious yet.

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that has plagued South America in recent months (and could reach the U.S. soon). The virus’ biggest danger is its connection to microcephaly, a disorder that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and can result in developmental issues or death. Per CNN, Brazil has seen 4,180 cases of microcephaly in babies whose mother had the Zika virus during their pregnancies, just since November.

All of this is naturally causing concern in advance of the Olympics, which start August 5 in Rio. On Wednesday, the Australian Olympic Committee released a statement warning pregnant team members about the risks involved in traveling to Rio.

From the AP:

In a statement on Wednesday, the AOC said “any team members who are pregnant at the time of the Games need to consider the risks very carefully before deciding whether to proceed with travel to Brazil.”

Australia team chef de mission Kitty Chiller said team medical director David Hughes was providing constantly updated advice and information about the outbreak.

Chiller said “the health and wellbeing of all our team members is paramount, especially those females in the team of child-bearing age.”

This situation has to be incredibly scary for women all over the world planning to attend the Olympics as a spectator or even athlete. The Australian Olympic Committee warned not only pregnant women, but also all women “of child-bearing age” who could be pregnant and not yet realize it.

Of course the Zika outbreak comes at an awful time for Brazil and the Olympics. According to CNN, there were only 146 cases of Zika-related microcephaly in all of 2014, meaning a couple years ago (during the World Cup, for example), Zika wasn’t much of a concern. It appears to have emerged right in time to scare fans away from the Olympics.

One saving grace of this outbreak, from an Olympic perspective: the virus does not seem to have hit Rio as it has hit other parts of Brazil. According to ABC Australia, there has not been a single reported case of Zika-caused microcephaly in the city that will serve as Olympic host.

The Games will provide ample mosquito repellent at the Games, and the Australian Olympic Committee is advising all in attendance to wear long sleeves as much as possible.


About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports,, and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.