Australian athletes at this summer’s Rio Olympics will be supplied with condoms which offer “near complete” protection against the mosquito-borne Zika virus, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) announced Monday.
The AOC said it would issue athletes with “Dual Protect” condoms produced by pharmaceutical company Starpharma Holdings in conjunction with the world’s second largest condom manufacturer Ansell, to help combat the spread of the Zika virus.
“The health and well-being of the team come first,” said AOC Chief de Mission Kitty Chiller in a statement. “Our association with Starpharma will provide extra protection for everyone in the team, and is a commonsense approach to a very serious problem we are facing in Rio.”
The extra-strength condoms, which the AOC said would be in addition to the 300,000 male and 100,000 female condoms already available at the Olympic village in free dispensers, are coated in a special lubricant designed to counteract viruses that cause sexually transmitted infections.
The AOC in the statement also dismissed suggestions that returning athletes should undergo compulsory blood testing. It added people who followed the recommendations were at a low risk of contracting Zika, and that blanket testing was not aligned with “medical or scientific best practice.”
The announcement came as Germany last week reported its first case of the Zika virus as a result of a woman allegedly becoming infected after a sexual encounter in Puerto Rico. Earlier in the year, the United States reported two cases of Zika being sexually transmitted.
The Zika virus has been clinically linked to a foetal deformation known as microcephaly, where infants are born with abnormally small heads and brains, as well as the rare but serious neurological disorder Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
The virus, a close cousin of dengue fever and chikungunya, causes rash, mild fever and red eyes, although 80 percent of those infected typically do not have symptoms. The World Health Organisation last week advised pregnant women not to travel to Rio.