HARROGATE (WATE) – Lincoln Memorial University will move ahead with plans to take both its men’s and women’s soccer team to Brazil, the heart of the Zika outbreak, in August, around the same time as the summer Olympic games.
Though concerns of contracting the Zika virus have made Olympic athletes around the world reconsider traveling to the South American country, Helio D’Anna, LMU head soccer coach, said the team will take every precaution to protect students from the virus.
“We’re not going to a place close to the epicenter,” D’Anna said. “We’re going south of the country. It is winter and the chances of having anything to be super concerned about are not very high.”
A Brazilian native, D’anna said August remains one of Brazil’s cooler months. He also noted the team will primarily be staying in the southern Brazilian city of Caragua, with August temperatures typically falling between 50 and 60 degrees.
Coaches said the trip will give athletes an opportunity for team building, help prepare them for the fall soccer season and allow them to attend two Olympic soccer games. The LMU soccer program plans trips to Brazil every four years, and coaches said it’s become a tradition.
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Student athletes said the threat of Zika has not been raising concerns among the players.
“As far as the Zika virus, no one has approached me and asked me anything about that,” Fernanda Miaci said. “I think they’re just really excited to be able to go.”
Howard Teitelbaum, LMU professor and chair of the Department of Preventative and Community Medicine, said students should be able to protect themselves as long as they follow school instruction.
“If in fact one can use lotion on their arms, or sab on their arms, can avoid areas where mosquitos are most likely to harbor themselves and birth themselves, like in water-born areas, then one is usually pretty safe,” Teitelbaum said.
Coach D’Anna said he will be giving presentations about Zika prevention and awareness in the weeks leading up to the trip and will also be bringing the team doctor to Brazil to ensure that everyone stays safe.
“Obviously this is a concern even in the U.S… Miami and Puerto Rico and other areas are seeing a focus of the virus, but we are never going to endanger our players and students,” D’Anna said.
The school will take 68 people, including players, coaches and team staff, to Brazil from Aug. 1 to Aug. 9, and D’Anna said that no one has decided not to go because of Zika concerns.