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Australia's Olympians to be armed with Zika-proof condoms for Rio

Europe
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Sydney (dpa) - Australia‘s Olympians will be given extra protection for the upcoming Rio games, in the form of "Zika-proof condoms," it was announced on Monday.

The anti-viral "Dual Protect" condoms have been touted as helping prevent the sexual transmission of the Zika virus, manufacturers Starpharma Holdings, an Australian pharmaceutical company, and Ansell Limited, world‘s number two condom-maker, said.

It said the condom lubricant contains VivaGel, an Australian innovation developed by Starpharma that has shown "near-complete antiviral protection against the virus in laboratory studies."

The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro is set to start August 5.

The World Health Organization declared Zika an international health emergency in February.

Brazil is one of the hardest hit areas of the recent Zika outbreak, with around 30,000 cases reported. According to the Health Ministry, an estimated 1.5 million people are infected by Zika.

It has been blamed for microencephaly, a condition where the head and brain of newborn are smaller than normal, leading to disabilities, as well as neurological disorder that can lead to paralysis.

Although mosquitoes normally carry the disease, it is now known the virus can be transmitted sexually. Germany last week reported its first case of the virus as a result of a woman becoming infected following a sexual encounter in Puerto Rico.

"Given sexual transmission of Zika virus is of increasing importance, the potent activity of Starpharma‘s VivaGel against Zika could prove very significant," Starpharma‘s chief executive Jackie Fairley said.

The antiviral agent has also proven to inactivate HIV, HSV (genital herpes) and HPV (human papillomavirus), which are viruses that cause sexually transmitted infections, the manufacturers claimed.

Kitty Chiller, Australian chief of the 2016 Olympic Team, said the distribution of the condoms was "a commonsense approach to a very serious problem we are facing in Rio."

"The health and wellbeing of the team comes first and our association with Starpharma will provide extra protection for everyone on the team," she said.

The anti-viral condoms are in addition to the normal condoms already shipped to the Olympic Village to be distributed from free dispensing machines, the Australian Olympic Committee said.

During past Olympic Games, organizers have distributed hundreds of thousands of condoms for free to the athletes.

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