(Reuters) - USA Swimming has moved a pre-Olympic training camp from Puerto Rico to Atlanta due to concerns about Zika but does not expect the mosquito-borne virus to keep them from competing at the Rio Games in August.
The U.S. team, which were originally headed to Puerto Rico following a July 11-21 training camp in San Antonio, will now hold that second camp at the Georgia Tech aquatic center that hosted swimming events during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
“Zika is definitely alive and well in Puerto Rico and there is no reason we would ever want to expose our athletes to that,” Frank Busch, USA Swimming’ s national team director, told Reuters on Friday.
“I didn’t hear from any athletes. This was done strictly by what I thought was the best thing for our athletes. We don’t want to expose them to something if we don’t have to.”
The decision comes two weeks after Major League Baseball relocated a two-game Puerto Rico series due to growing concerns among players over the Zika virus in the area.
Zika has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with undersized brains, and has hit over 40 countries and territories with Brazil, host of the Aug. 5-21 Olympics, so far the hardest hit.
Busch said he was recently in Brazil and didn’t see a mosquito but did notice a lot of spraying going on and is confident the proper precautions are being made.
“Right now I think everyone feels pretty good about the precautions that Brazil has taken,” said Busch.
In the letter sent to national team athletes and coaches on Thursday, Busch said USA Swimming’ s main priority is the health and safety of the Olympic team.
“As part of our preparations for the Olympic Games this summer, we have been closely monitoring the current situation with the Zika virus,” Busch wrote.
“According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and other health experts in the field of science and medicine, our athletes would be highly exposed to the Zika virus in Puerto Rico.
“With this information, the national team division has decided to relocate the second camp to Atlanta.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar