IOC president Thomas Bach addresses the media after the Executive Board meeting and IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur. Picture: AFP PHOTO/MANAN VATSYAYANA
IOC president Thomas Bach addresses the media after the Executive Board meeting and IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur. Picture: AFP PHOTO/MANAN VATSYAYANA

LOS ANGELES — The US Olympic Committee (USOC) on Monday refuted an "inaccurate" report that it had advised American athletes to reconsider competing in the Rio Games because of concern about the Zika.

"The reports that the USOC has advised US athletes to reconsider competing in Rio due to the Zika virus are 100% inaccurate," committee spokesperson Patrick Sandusky said.

"Team USA looks forward to the Games and we did not, would not and will not prevent athletes from competing for their country should they qualify."

Sandusky said the committee had held internal discussions with US sports leaders about the potential risks that the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had identified with travel to Zika-infested areas.

The primarily mosquito-borne illness has surged through Latin America.

The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) said that at least 26 countries on the continent had already been affected by Zika.

In most people, it causes mild symptoms, but it has been linked to a rapid rise in the number of children born with microcephaly — abnormally small heads and brains.

In at least one instance, reported in Dallas, Texas, the disease may have been transmitted sexually.

Brazil, where the Rio Games begin in August, is the hardest-hit country to date, and has warned pregnant women not to travel there.

However, Games organisers said in February that by the time the Olympics started on August 5, the main mosquito season would be over and they did not expect the illness to affect the sporting extravaganza.

Brazilian Sports Minister George Hilton reiterated that position on Monday in remarks to the newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo, saying his government was contacting sports federations to clarify that the mosquito population would be reduced in Rio in August.

"Zika is a public health problem worldwide, but precisely because of the climate characteristics, is not an Olympic issue," Hilton said.

AFP