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US health officials say Olympic visitors unlikely to catch Zika virus

Europe
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Washington (dpa) - Tourists and athletes visiting Rio De Janeiro for the Oympic games are at low risk for catching the mosquito-borne Zika virus, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

Several athletes, including US golfer Dustin Johnson, have recently withdrawn from the Olympics over concerns about the virus, which has been linked to birth defects in newborn babies and other rare neurological conditions.

Johnson and his fiancee "plan to have more children in the near future, and I feel it would be irresponsible to put myself, her or our family at risk," he said to US media, when he withdrew from the Games earlier this month.

The CDC found that visitors were unlikely to catch the Zika virus from Brazilian mosquitos because the Olympics are taking place during the country‘s winter season when there are fewer insects.

But the CDC warned that other countries with Zika outbreaks, such as Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Yemen carry a risk of importing and transmitting the disease to others. However, less than 0.25 per cent of visitors are coming from these countries to the Rio Olympics.

Brazil has been hardest-hit by an ongoing Zika outbreak in parts of Latin America. Recently, 151 leading scientists recommended that the Rio Games be postponed or moved to avoid intensifying the spread of the virus.

However, the World Health Organization disagreed, saying the event would "not significantly alter" the spread of Zika, which it had declared a public health emergency of international concern in February.

The virus has spread throughout the region and Jamaican gold medal sprinter Kemar Bailey-Cole is among those who have said they became infected with the disease.

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