Eleven senators want the U.S. Olympic Committee to explain preparations for dealing with the Zika virus in Brazil in advance of this summer’s Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“As proud supporters of the U.S. Olympic team and our outstanding athletes who are preparing to travel to Brazil to participate in the upcoming Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, we write to ask what steps the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) is taking to assist and protect our athletes against the spread of the Zika virus,” wrote members of the Democratic caucus led by Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Patty Murray of Washington.
The letter was sent to USOC Chairman Lawrence Probst on Monday.
Brazil has become ground zero for the Zika virus with more than 91,000 likely cases registered in February and March. More than a third of those were in the Rio de Janeiro area. The mosquito-borne virus can cause birth defects in children and other health effects in adults.
The letter comes after the Senate passed legislation containing $1.1 billion in emergency funding for the U.S. response to the Zika crisis. Murray was among the key players in developing the compromise bill. The House approved a $622 million package , well short of the $1.9 billion the White House has requested .
“There are additional concerns about the duration that the virus lasts in an infected individual so there could be possible cases of transmission in the United States long after the Games have concluded,” the senators wrote.
“Given this context, we hope that the USOC is prepared to work with health authorities both here in the United States and in Brazil to help ensure that all the necessary steps are taken to protect our athletes as they compete this summer.”
Last week New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen asked the World Health Organization to explore whether hosting the games in Brazil this summer could trigger a worldwide Zika outbreak.