In pursuit of glory

GLOBE-TROTTING, money and life under the spotlight are some of the factors that pose a wide range of health hazards for professional sportspersons.

Being health-conscious therefore becomes essential, more so for the younger athletes hoping to start families. Any responsible athlete would not want to take the slightest risk with the health of their loved ones.

Some are even willing to pay the prize of foregoing the opportunity of winning a medal at the Olympic Games — to many sports personalities — the greatest moment of their careers. It is little wonder why dozens of internationally-acclaimed athletes have pulled out of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, over fears of the Zika virus, insisting sport cannot take precedence over the well-being of their families.

Top golfers like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Vijay Singh and Zimbabwe’s own Brendon de Jonge have all pulled out of Rio. They are joined by leading tennis players Milos Raonic, Simona Halep, Tomas Berdych and Karolina Pliskova in boycotting the Games over Zika.

However, many more athletes are going to Rio despite the threat posed by the Zika virus in pursuit of glory. British rider Mark Cavendish pulled out of the ongoing Tour de France in order to start his preparations for the Olympics.

Zimbabwe will be sending a delegation of 57 athletes and officials for the Games and the government this week assured the nation that they will be safe while in Rio. Addressing a joint press conference by the ministries of Sports and Health, earlier this week, chief medical officer for Team Zimbabwe for Rio Games, Austin Jeans said travelling athletes will be vaccinated before they depart for Brazil.

He urged all athletes to take the appropriate precautions adding that they have organised a Zika Pack for them which consists of condoms and mosquito repellent among other things.

“If individuals take reasonable care as instructed, then I believe the risk to our team members will be -minimal,” Jeans said. Our athletes are gonna be fully aware and have tools to prevent mosquito and sexual transmission. 

“We have put in measures in place and once we adhere it is safe for our team to participate. Our athletes will be safe.” Jeans further played down fears, saying the games will be held in Brazil’s winter when the cooler, drier weather will reduce the number of mosquitoes.

Deputy Health Care minister Aldrin Musiiwa said the government has been closely monitoring the situation and precautionary measures have since been undertaken.

He warned athletes to smother themselves in mosquito repellent among other things to minimise the risks. Musiiwa also warned that everyone should wear long sleeved clothing and trousers around stagnant water adding that his ministry will also organise surveillance for athletes on their return for a period of 21 days. 

The mosquito-borne virus has been spreading like a veld fire in the Americas since it was first reported in Brazil back in May 2015. As of January 23, 2016, the mosquito-borne virus had spread to 21 countries of the Americas, according to the Pan-American Health Organisation prompting the World Health rganisation (WHO) to declare the outbreak a global health emergency.

Female spectators and athletes of childbearing age are now being warned by medical professionals around the world to consider trips to Brazil “carefully” ahead of the Olympic Games this August.

WHO has warned that the mosquito-borne virus was “spreading explosively” in the Americas, and said the region could see up to four million Zika cases this year alone.

WHO is under pressure to act quickly in the fight against Zika, after admitting it was slow to respond to the recent Ebola outbreak that ravaged parts of West Africa. Eduardo Paes, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, said he did not believe the Zika virus outbreak would affect the Olympics in August.

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