Posted: June 10, 2016 – Mosquito Squad
Detroit Tigers pitcher Francisco Rodriguez is telling anyone who is considering traveling to Brazil for the Olympics to do their homework on the virus.
Rodriguez contracted the virus last offseason and learned how serious the disease can be. He was in bed for two weeks with body aches, joint pain, headaches and other symptoms.
The World Health Organization has categorized Zika, a mosquito-transmitted illness that can cause microcephaly in infants as well as other developmental issues, as a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” but just ruled that canceling or changing the location of the 2016 Olympics “will not significantly alter the international spread of Zika virus.” The WHO’s decision comes in spite of a recent plea from a group of 150 health experts to delay the event.
“I wouldn’t blame them,” Rodriguez told ESPN.com of any athletes having second thoughts about competing. “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.”
For Rodriguez, who spends his offseason back home in Venezuela, what started as something similar to a cold quickly devolved into something much worse. Once the symptoms continued, he knew he wasn’t dealing with any garden-variety illness.
“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.”
Rodriguez, who recently became only the sixth pitcher in MLB history to record 400 saves, had bloodwork done to see whether he had Zika or chikungunya, a different mosquito-borne disease, which Tigers prospect Bruce Rondon contracted this offseason. The test determined it was Zika, and from there it was a sluggish recovery. Although Rodriguez was infected with the virus for only two weeks, the effects were far-reaching. He said it took him two months before he felt normal again.
And Rodriguez said he understands he was undoubtedly one of the lucky ones, especially considering the dreadful state of the economy and healthcare in Venezuela, where even the most wealthy residents have a hard time receiving access to medicine or experience extreme price-gouging.
Having seen the sort of pain and chaos the virus has inflicted in his own country, Rodriguez said he can appreciate the level of concern heading into the Olympics, with so many athletes, fans and spectators expected to come to Rio. Latin and South American countries have been dealing with the disaster for six months, but tourists and athletes coming from other parts of the world might be putting themselves at risk when there are no reported incidents back home.
“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.”