Vt. Olympian Undeterred by Zika Virus

An Olympian from New England said the Zika virus will not stop her from competing in the Summer Games in Rio de Janiero.

"I'm excited," beamed Lea Davison of Jericho, Vermont, who will compete in cross-country mountain biking. "The Olympics are the pinnacle of the sport."

Davison left Monday for the world championships of mountain biking this weekend in the Czech Republic, where she will race with the Specialized Bicycles name on her bike and jersey.

It will be just one stop in a busy summer for Davison, who will also represent the U.S. at the Olympics in Brazil.

Several weeks ago, more than 150 doctors, scientists, and ethicists wrote a letter urging the summer games be postponed or moved to stop the potential spread of Zika. The World Health Organization dismissed the concerns, saying canceling would not significantly alter the spread of the disease.

Still, the virus, which is transmitted through mosquito bites and unprotected sex and carries a risk for potentially devastating neurological birth defects, has changed the Summer Games.

Irish golfer Rory McIlroy announced last week he is passing on Rio 2016. He noted his chances of contracting Zika are low, but still, he said he doesn't want to chance it.

Earlier this month, American cyclist Tejay van Garderen said he is skipping the Games, explaining his family is his priority. His wife is pregnant, the athlete said.

Monday, as she left the Burlington International Airport, Davison said she is very glad the games will go on and that she is undeterred in the face of Zika.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity so I'm going to go," Davison told necn. "I have been working for a lifetime, pretty much, for this race, so I'm not about to give it up for some mosquitoes."

Jeff Davison, Lea's dad, said the whole family is going to Brazil to cheer on his daughter and her Olympic medal aspirations. Jeff Davison said his family is planning to follow guidelines like wearing plenty of bug spray when in Rio.

"I'm not going to miss this," Jeff Davison said, smiling.

The International Olympic Committee has been downplaying concerns over the Zika risk, saying the Summer Olympics happen during Brazil's winter, when mosquito activity should be much lower.

The World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization encouraged people traveling to Brazil for the Olympics to follow these recommendations:

• Consult a health worker before travelling

• Whenever possible, during the day, protect themselves from mosquito bites by using insect repellents and by wearing clothing - preferably light-colored - that covers as much of the body as possible

• Practice safer sex (e.g. use condoms correctly and consistently) or abstain from sex during their stay and for at least 8 weeks after their return, particularly if they have had or are experiencing symptoms of Zika virus

• Choose air-conditioned accommodation (windows and doors are usually kept closed to prevent the cool air from escaping, and mosquitoes cannot enter the rooms)

• Avoid visiting impoverished and over-crowded areas in cities and towns with no piped water and poor sanitation (ideal breeding grounds of mosquitoes) where the risk of being bitten is higher

Pregnant women's sex partners returning from areas with circulating virus continue to be counseled to practice safer sex or abstain throughout the pregnancy, the WHO and PAHO said.

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