HARARE – Zimbabwean athletes going to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro must carry condoms to provide them with near complete anti-viral protection against the Zika virus.
The health measure for the August 5-21 Olympics were made by Zimbabwe Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa on the sidelines of the appointment a new Zimbabwe Medical Research Council board on Thursday.
He said carrying condoms was a common-sense approach to a very serious problem that Rio was facing.
Zimbabwe is sending at least 25 athletes and the national women’s soccer team, the Mighty Warriors, to the games.
Parirenyatwa said the teams going there needed to be extra careful to protect themselves.
“My advice to our sports people is that in Brazil, there is Zika and you catch it in two ways, one, being bitten by a mosquito which is infected by Zika, which going to be very unlikely in the camp,” Parirenyatwa said
“The second one is through sexual transmission, so we urge our sports people to really try very hard to refrain from those activities, if they have to, please, carry condoms.”
The mosquito-borne Zika virus is an epidemic in Central and Latin America, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared it a global health emergency.
Zika causes mild illness or no symptoms in most people but is believed to be linked to a birth defect that causes babies to be born with unusually small heads.
The Zimbabwe Olympic Committee media commission chairperson Margie Gibson told the Daily News the issue of Zika was of grave concern and they would continue to monitor the situation.
The Centres for Disease Control (CDC)’s most recent advice was for pregnant women to consider not going to the Olympics and for their male sexual partners to use condoms after the trip or abstain from sex during the pregnancy.
The CDC also recommends that all travellers use insect repellent while in outbreak areas and continue to use it for three weeks after travel in case they might be infected but not feel sick.
This comes as about 150 health experts issued an open letter to WHO calling for the games to be delayed or relocated in the name of public health.
WHO has maintained that there was nothing to worry about.