From the moment I heard the Olympics would be held in Rio de Janeiro, I’ve been planning my return. Brazil — where I’ve spent more than two years — holds a special place in my heart, and Rio is hands down one of the most interesting cities in the world. In the last year or so, especially with the temporary visa waiver, my excitement to return to Brazil has only grown. I think Laura shared this excitement.
But we’re not going, and the reason is simple: Zika.
It feels a bit weird to say that I’m not traveling somewhere due to the risks, because usually I don’t mind danger. I’ve snuck into closed and abandoned places, been violently assaulted (in Rio, no less), and for my day job covered the front lines of rioting. I don’t mind risk at all and generally look down on avoiding travel based on fear of danger.
But Zika is different. Though everything I’ve read suggests the risk of actually getting Zika would be low, the cost if either Laura or I did get it could be devastating; when we decide to have kids, they would be the ones affected.
Which is to say that I don’t mind risking my own health and safety while traveling, but risking the health of a future unborn child — even if the risk is small — isn’t worth it. And so because we will probably want to have kids someday, we’re not going to Brazil this summer.
This wasn’t an easy decision to make. In recent months, Laura and I have visited doctors and repeatedly looked at official material — the CDC website, for example — for information. I can’t speak for Laura, but I think I was really just looking for someone to say it would be fine to go to Rio and the risk was just way overblown. I never found that.
Instead, I was left with numerous unanswered questions. It was, for example, never entirely clear how long Zika might affect Laura and me if/when we decide to have kids. Weeks? Months? Years? I found information indicating it could be all of the above. That lack of clarity plagued many of the topics I looked up.
And it didn’t help that our doctor seemed to know even less than us. Or that Brazilians Laura met in an Uber told her not to go. Or that a bunch of Olympians have either opted out of the games or frozen their sperm.
Ultimately I think the risk is low. I bet that if Laura and I went to Rio this summer, used insect repellent, and were careful, we’d be fine. I know people who are doing just that, and I’m happy for them.
But we’re not going because regardless of the level of risk, for us the potential consequences are too great.
— Jim Dalrymple II
* Cover photo via Global Panorama