Zika virus leaves Kenya undecided about attending Rio Olympics

From left, silver-medallist Abel Kirui of Kenya, bronze-medallist Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich of Kenya, and gold-medallist Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda run during the men's marathon at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. (AP)

Kenya caused a stir on Tuesday when the head of its Olympics committee said the team might withdraw from the Rio Games because of Zika, but officials said later it was too soon to decide on the impact of the virus.

The mosquito-borne virus, which is widespread in Brazil and has been linked to birth defects, has prompted concern among athletes and sports officials around the world as they prepare for the Aug. 5-21 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika, so combating the outbreak is focused on eradicating mosquito populations and preventing mosquito bites.

National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) head Kipchoge Keino said the country would not “risk taking Kenyans there if this Zika virus reaches epidemic levels”, and that he was seeking reassurance from organizers.

But NOCK played down the comments, saying the East African country was monitoring the potential health threats and receiving regular updates.

“It is too early to make a determination on the status of the virus during the Games time which is six months away,” said NOCK’s chief of mission for Rio, Stephen Soi.

NOCK said Keino “may have been quoted out of context”.

Kenyan Sports Minister Hassan Wario said the country had not yet decided whether to take part after meeting with health officials, according to the Daily Nation newspaper.

Kenyan athletes include some of the best middle and long-distance runners in the world and would likely be among the star performers in Rio.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:47 - GMT 06:47