Detroit Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez says he contracted the Zika virus over the offseason in his home country of Venezuela and advises potential Olympic athletes to educate themselves on the virus before heading to Rio de Janeiro.
Rodriguez told ESPN.com on Tuesday that he wouldn’t blame athletes for skipping the Olympics, and that “if they have plans to have kids in the future, you’ve got to think about it.”
Zika is a mosquito-borne virus linked to severe birth defects and possible neurological problems in adults.
Rodriguez says he was bedridden for about two weeks with head and body aches, sore joints and other symptoms. It felt like he had a cold at first, but as symptoms worsened, he went for bloodwork that determined it was Zika. It took about two months until he felt normal again.
The World Health Organization last week rejected a call from 150 health experts to consider postponing or moving the Olympics due to Zika in hard-hit Brazil. WHO argued the shift would make no significant difference to the spread of the virus.
A number of possible Olympic participants have voiced concerns about Zika recently, including Pau Gasol, Serena Williams and Rory McIlroy. Gasol says he has considering skipping Rio altogether.
“It’s something people have to be careful with and worry about,” Rodriguez said. “There’s no vaccine for it. It’s not like you take a shot and (improve). … It could be global.”