- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Detroit Tigers pitcher Francisco Rodriguez says he caught the Zika virus during the offseason in Venezuela and that he “wouldn’t blame” athletes for having second thoughts about competing in this summer’s Olympic Games in Brazil.

The 34-year-old confirmed the diagnosis through lab testing after he fell ill with symptoms that went far beyond the common cold.

“It wasn’t a cold. A cold, you have a sneeze, have a headache, take a couple Tylenol and you’re done,” Mr. Rodriguez told ESPN.com. “You don’t have a cold for two weeks, you don’t have a bodyache for two weeks, you don’t have headaches, throwing up, weaknesses for two weeks.”

The sports network said the reliever, who was born in Caracas and spends the offseason in his native country, was infected for two weeks but took a full two months to feel like himself.

The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned pregnant women to defer travel to countries where Zika is swirling, if they can, because the virus causes serious birth defects. It also warned couples to practice safe sex or abstain for eight weeks to avoid transmitting the disease, and said symptomatic men should heed those steps for at least six months.

More than 150 health experts recently called on officials to move or postpone this August’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, since the virus is swirling in Latin America and causing babies to be born with abnormally small heads.

The WHO threw cold water on the idea, saying such a move wouldn’t have a dramatic effect on transmission and that it is best for athletes and travelers to follow guidelines for protecting themselves.

Still, Mr. Rodriguez said he is sympathetic to those who’ve thought about dropping out of the competition.

“I wouldn’t blame them,” Mr. Rodriguez told ESPN. “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.”

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