Detroit Tigers pitcher says he contracted, battled Zika virus during offseason

Detroit Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez has revealed he contracted the Zika virus this past offseason and is warning athletes going to the Rio Olympics about the dangers.

The 34-year-old native of Caracas, Venezuela, said he was laid up for two weeks with severe bodyaches, joint pain and headaches among the symptoms. K-Rod spends his offseason back home in Venezuela.

“It wasn’t a cold, trust me,” Rodriguez told ESPN.com. “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 bodyache for two weeks, you don’t have headaches, throwing up, weaknesses for two weeks.”

Zika, a mosquito-transmitted illness, leads to severe birth defects, including babies born with abnormally small heads. It can cause neurological problems for adults.

There is no vaccine for the Zika virus.

Several prominent athletes, including American tennis star Serena Williams, have voiced concerns over Olympic participation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Just this week, Chicago Bulls center Pau Gasol said he may skip playing for the Spanish basketball team at the Olympics because of the Zika virus.

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

Rodriguez, who recently became only the sixth pitcher in major league history to record 400 saves, said he had bloodwork performed to see whether he had Zika or Chikungunya, a different mosquito-borne illness. The test determined it was Zika.

Rodriguez said it took two months before he ultimately felt like himself again. He said the recovery also affected him once he got to spring training with his new club, although he was never considered contagious.

“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).”

A group of health experts are requesting that the World Health Organization analyze whether or not the Olympics should be postponed or moved due to the Zika outbreak.

The Rio Games are scheduled from Aug. 5-21 and the experts — 150 in all — requested a delay or relocation of the Olympics “in the name of public health.”

The World Health Organization declared the Zika virus as a “global emergency” in February but rejected calls last week to postpone or cancel the Olympic Games this summer.

The No. 3-ranked golfer in the world, Rory McIlroy, said he may decide to skip the Olympic golf tournament over fears of contracting the virus in Rio.

McIlroy, 27, would represent Ireland as golf makes its return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904. McIlroy said he and his fiancee, Erica Stoll, may consider starting a family in the next few years.

“Right now, I’m ready to go but I don’t want anything to affect that,” McIlroy said last week.

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