"It's something people have to be careful with and worry about," Francisco Rodriguez said
Credit: Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos/Getty

After contracting the Zika virus in Venezuela, Detroit Tigers pitcher Francisco Rodriguez is urging athletes to “do their homework” before heading to this summer’s Olympic Games.

“It’s something people have to be careful with and worry about,” Rodriguez told ESPN.com. “There’s no vaccine for it. It’s not like you take a shot and [improve]. … It could be global.”

Rodriguez is sounding the alarm about Zika after he spent two weeks battling severe headaches, body aches, joint pain and other symptoms while spending the off-season at home in Caracas, Venezuela. He says he thought he was just suffering from a cold until his symptoms quickly worsened.

“It wasn’t a cold, trust me,” he said. “It wasn’t a cold. A cold, you have a sneeze, have a headache, take a couple Tylenol and you’re done. You don’t have a cold for two weeks, you don’t have a body ache for two weeks, you don’t have headaches, throwing up, weaknesses for two weeks.”

A blood test confirmed that he had contracted the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness that has been linked to severe birth defects and other serious health issues. While his infection lasted for only two weeks, Rodriguez said it took two months before he made a full recovery.

Knowing that the effects of the virus are even more devastating for pregnant women, who face the possibility of their baby being born with microcephaly or other developmental issues, Rodriguez said he considers himself lucky.

After witnessing the pain the Zika virus has brought to his home country, Rodriguez added that he can understand concerns about this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With some 500,000 athletes, fans and spectators expected to travel to Rio, 150 health professionals have called for the Games to be postponed, and one expert has warned that the Games could cause Zika to explode into a “foreseeable global catastrophe.”

Olympic athletes like Hope Solo, Pau Gasol and Serena Williams have already voiced their concerns about participating in the games.

“I wouldn’t blame them,” Rodriguez of any athletes thinking twice about traveling to Brazil to compete. “If they have plans to have kids in the future, you’ve got to think about it. You have to be aware of that as well. You have to do some homework, some research about it.”