In a response to the letter sent from 11 US Senators to U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) Chairman Lawrence Probst inquiring on how the USOC is protecting athletes from Zika this summer in Rio, USOC Chief Executive Officer, Scott A. Blackmun wrote back to Sen Barbara Boxer today noting the following points:
Because we are not an organization with expertise or experience in dealing with infectious diseases, we first and foremost rely on the tremendous expertise of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other public and private infectious disease experts, to understand and address the threats that viruses such as Zika pose for our athletes and staff.
We have been in regular contact with the CDC and other experts in infectious disease since the summer of 2015. They have provided sound recommendations based on all available information and we have communicated the CDC’s recommendations via a variety of mediums to all potential Team USA athletes and support staff likely to travel to Rio before and during the Games.
In February we formed an Infectious Disease Advisory Group. The USOC IDAG is chaired by Dr. Carrie L. Byington, MD, from the University of Utah Health Care, and she is joined by Dr. Randy Taplitz, MD, from the University of California, San Diego, and Capt. Martin S. Cetron, MD, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All three doctors are world-class physicians and experts in the field of infectious disease.
The group is helping us to identify and establish – on a real-time basis – best practices regarding the mitigation, assessment and management of infectious disease in general, and regarding the Zika virus specifically, paying particular attention to how issues may affect athletes and staff participating in the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The advisory group assists the USOC in developing informational material for athletes and staff, with education and consistent communication being key to our efforts as it relates to the Zika virus.
In addition to having one-on-one access to the IDAG, athletes and staff have been made aware of the CDC’s guidelines on mosquito-bite prevention and will have air conditioning units in their rooms, will be provided with OFF! Insect repellent, and will be allocated long-sleeved shirts and pants as part of their casual wear uniforms.
Condoms will also be distributed to athletes and staff for use with sexual partners for up to six months following their trip to South America, as recommended by the CDC.
Additionally, the relevant authorities in Rio are doing their part to evaluate the Games environment and mitigate against mosquito breeding by eliminating standing water near Olympic and Paralympic venues and are conducting fumigation where appropriate.
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