Rio de Janeiro will host the Summer Olympics August 5 to 21, drawing athletes and spectators from around the world. But due to the recent Zika outbreak, concerns are growing about its epidemic potential with the Olympics barely five months away. Therefore now, the US Olympic Committee (USOC) has announced the formation of an infectious disease advisory group.
Doctor Carrie Byington from the University of Utah Health Care will chair the panel, which also includes doctor Randy Taplitz from the University of California at San Diego and Captain Martin Cetron, a physician from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All are volunteers.
"It is a true honor to chair this advisory group with some of our nation's most experienced infectious disease specialists," Byington said.
The group will assist the USOC in identifying and establishing best practices regarding the mitigation, assessment and management of infectious disease, paying particular attention to how issues may affect athletes and staff participating in the upcoming Rio Olympics and Paralympic Games.
"The health and safety of our athletes, and our entire delegation, is our top priority," USOC chief execuitve Scott Blackmun said.
"I'm grateful to the diverse group of medical experts that have agreed to provide Team USA with the information and resources necessary to stay healthy and compete successfully."
The group will help develop educational materials for US staff and athletes, be available to provide answers to questions from members of the American delegation and monitor and share updated scientific information.
"All three doctors are world-class physicians and experts in the field of infectious disease," said USOC Managing Director of Sports Medicine Bill Moreau.
"This advisory group is just another way we can make sure our athletes and staff have what they need to be well and compete at a high level."
Brazil has already seen 1.5 million cases of the Zika virus since 2015 and the World Health Organization expects an "explosive" spread in the Americas with 3 to 4 million cases this year.
But Rio Olympics organizing committee chairman Carlos Nuzman said that Zika is not a threat to the Olympics.
"The director of WHO (Margaret Chan) recognized there is no problem (with Zika)... and she gave an interview saying all of this," Nuzman said. "We are confident and I think the position of the IOC is the same."