Kenya fears Zika may put Olympics athletes at risk

Nairobi (AFP) – Kenya’s Olympic chief has raised the possibility of pulling out of the Rio Olympics this summer if the outbreak of the Zika virus worsens in Brazil, reports said Tuesday.

Kipchoge Keino, the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) chairman, said the East African nation may consider pulling out of the competition should the disease reach epidemic levels.

“We will wait until the last minute. We are relying on advice from health organisations in Rio, Brazil, to enable us make an informed decision,” Keino said, according to Kenya’s Standard newspaper.

“If the Zika virus is serious, then we will not attend the games. We will not expose our youths. The health of our people is more important than the games… but if the Zika virus is not so dangerous, we will go.”

Kenya is famed for its athletes and marathon runners, topping the medal table in last year’s world athletics championships in Beijing, taking seven golds, six silvers and three bronze medals.

The Zika outbreak, a largely mosquito-borne virus believed to be linked to severe birth defects, has sparked fears of infections in Brazil, which will host the Olympics between August 5-23.

However, Zika was first discovered in East Africa, in Kenya’s neighbour Uganda.

Jackson Tuwei, the Athletics Kenya President, said they would first seek the advice of the health authorities and the government before making a decision.

“We will have intense consultations with the government and all other stakeholders. I think by August we will have a solution,” Tuwei said, according to the Standard.


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