By Daniel Bases & Joshua Schneyer
The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has told sports federations that athletes and staff concerned for their health over the Zika virus should consider not going to the Olympic Games in August in Rio de Janeiro.
The message was delivered in a conference call involving USOC officials and leaders of US sport federations in late January, according to two people who participated in the hook-up.
Federations were told no one should go to Brazil "if they don't feel comfortable going -- bottom line", said Donald Anthony, president and board chairman of USA Fencing.
The USOC's briefing to sport federations is the latest sign Olympics officials are taking the Zika threat to the Rio Games seriously, and acknowledges at least some athletes and support staff could face a tough decision over whether to attend.
The US won most medals at the last Olympics in London in 2012, so any disruption to its presence would have significant impact on the Rio games.
Global health authorities suspect the mosquito-borne Zika virus has caused a spike in Brazil of microcephaly, a birth defect marked by an abnormally small head.
As a result, the World Health Organisation declared an international health emergency on February 1, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising pregnant women or those considering becoming pregnant to avoid travel to places with Zika outbreaks.
USOC chief of sport performance Alan Ashley and other USOC officials briefed the leaders of the federations.
Mr Ashley did not respond to email or phone calls requesting comment.
USOC spokesman Mark Jones confirmed by email that Ashley had "briefed federation leaders on the CDC's recommendations and we will continue to ensure that athletes and officials affiliated with Team USA receive any updates from the CDC".
The USOC has not issued its own set of recommendations for athletes and staff beyond what the CDC and WHO have done.
Recalling the conference call Mr Anthony said: "One of the things that they immediately said was ... no one should go if they feel at all as though that that threat could impact them," said the former Olympian, who praised the USOC's handling of the outbreak so far.
Zika outbreaks have been reported in 33 countries, most of them in the Americas.
Symptoms of infection are often mild or imperceptible -- but the outbreak in Brazil that began last year has been accompanied by more than 4000 cases of suspected microcephaly; investigators have confirmed more than 400.
The link to Zika is unproven but strongly suspected.