Detroit Tigers pitcher Francisco Rodriguez told ESPN he contracted the Zika virus during the off-season while at home in Venezuela, and advised athletes traveling to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics to do their research on the disease before departure.
Rodriguez said he was sick for two weeks with the virus, but that it took him two months before he felt he was back to full health. After experiencing the severity and lingering affects of the virus, Rodriguez understood why so many Olympic athletes—including Pau Gasol and Hope Solo—have considered sitting out the Games due to fear of contracting the illness.
“I wouldn’t blame them,” Rodriguez said. “If they have plans to have kids in the future, you’ve got to think about it. You have to be aware of that as well. You have to do some homework, some research about it.
“It’s something people have to be careful with and worry about. There’s no vaccine for it. It’s not like you take a shot and [improve]. ... It could be global.”
Zika has been linked to birth defects in children and can lead to neurological disorders in adults. The World Health Organization has rejected the necessity of relocating or canceling the Olympics after 150 health experts submitted a letter calling for the Games to be moved “in the name of public health.”
When Rodriguez first contracted the virus he thought he simply had a cold, but the severity of his symptoms convinced him otherwise.
“It wasn’t a cold, trust me,” he said. “It wasn’t a cold. A cold, you have a sneeze, have a headache, take a couple Tylenol and you’re done. You don’t have a cold for two weeks, you don't have a body ache for two weeks, you don’t have headaches, throwing up, weaknesses for two weeks.”
The Olympics are scheduled to begin in Rio this August.
- Erin Flynn