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This Cyclist Is the First American Athlete to Skip the Olympics Because of Zika

@Tejay_Van Instagram

The first U.S. athlete—male American cyclist Tejay van Garderen—has officially withdrawn his name from Olympic consideration because of Zika. His wife, Jessica, is pregnant with their second child, and van Garderen says he doesn't want to take any chances, according to CyclingTips. If they were simply trying for another baby, he would put it off until after the Olympics, but since she is already several months along, he doesn't want to take any chances. (Get the seven need-to-know facts about Zika.)

The Olympic team selection for U.S. Cycling isn't until June 24, so there wasn't a guarantee van Garderen was going to be sent to Rio, but his withdrawal marks the first U.S. athlete to officially remove themselves from Olympic consideration due to Zika risks. (And, considering he was one of the riders on the London 2012 U.S. Cycling team, he had a good chance of going.)

In February, U.S. Soccer goalie Hope Solo told Sports Illustrated that, if she had to make the choice at the time, she wouldn't go to Rio. Former U.S. gymnast and 2004 Olympic champion Carly Patterson tweeted that she won't be traveling to watch the Rio games because she's, "trying to start a family."

Other athletes aren't fazed: 2012 Olympic Champion Gabby Douglas says there's no chance Zika will keep her from going for another gold. "This is my shot. I don't care about no stupid bugs," she told the Associated Press. Fellow gymnast Simone Biles says she's not concerned because they're all young and not trying to get pregnant, while Aly Raisman told the AP she isn't going to think about it much until she's officially made the Olympic team. (The women's gymnastics trials are coming up in early July.)

But the risk isn't only in Rio: according to the CDC, almost 300 pregnant women in the U.S. are confirmed to have Zika. That's big news because Zika's scariest effects are in unborn children (like microcephaly—a serious birth defect that causes abnormal brain development and abnormally small heads, and another abnormality that may lead to blindness). Most of the pregnant women with confirmed Zika infections contracted it while traveling in high-risk areas outside the U.S. We know Zika can be transmitted through blood or sexual contact, but there's still a lot we don't know about the virus. The good news is that it's not harmful to most people—symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes) with symptoms typically lasting from several days to a week. In fact, only about 1 in 5 people with the virus will actually get sick from it, according to the CDC.

But if you're pregnant or trying to become pregnant, it's best to be super safe and stop any travel to high-risk areas. As for the Olympics, it's up to the International Olympic Committee, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and individual athletes to decide how they want to respond to the risk. (The Australian Olympic team's plan? Bring a ton of anti-Zika condoms.) Meanwhile, we'll keep our fingers crossed that U.S. athletes don't bringing home anything but shiny, gold medals.

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