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U.S. Olympic officials create Zika virus advisory group for American team

The U.S. Olympic Committee has appointed three doctors to a panel that will provide information to athletes worried about competing at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil amid a Zika virus outbreak.

The Infectious Disease Advisory Group will answer questions and publish recommendations to help U.S. team members and staff avoid being infected by the mosquito-borne virus.

“The health and safety of our athletes, and our entire delegation, is our top priority,” USOC Chief Executive Scott Blackmun said in a statement Friday. “I’m grateful to the diverse group of medical experts that have agreed to provide Team USA with the information and resources necessary to stay healthy and compete successfully.”

The USOC originally announced its intention to form the group last month. The members will include Dr. Carrie L. Byington of the University of Utah, Dr. Randy Taplitz of UC San Diego and Capt. Martin S. Cetron of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Helping Team USA is an incredibly unique opportunity and I look forward to providing the entire delegation with the most up-to-date and fact-based information available,” Byington said.

Zika has swept through the Americas in recent months. Though its symptoms are relatively mild, health officials suspect the virus might be linked to birth defects in cases where women become infected during pregnancy.

The World Health Organization previously classified Zika as a global health emergency but has predicted the outbreak will slow as winter begins in the Southern Hemisphere and cooler temperatures limit the mosquito population.

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