Wednesday, 1 June 2016
International Olympic Committee issues Zika advisory, says practice ‘safe sex’
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) have urged athletes and others travelling to the Olympics to ‘practice safer sex’ during their stay in Rio and ‘abstain for at least four weeks after their return’ to reduce the risk of contracting Zika virus. It has also advised pregnant women not to travel for the Games.
The IOC sent an advisory related to the deadly virus to all National Olympic Committees (NOCs) on Monday after calls for postponing the Rio Games gathered momentum. According to the WHO, Brazil — where the virus broke out — is ‘one of almost 60 countries’ which have reported continuing transmission of Zika by mosquitoes.
While the IOC and WHO have played down the concerns of the Rio-bound athletes, it has warned pregnant women against travelling from the Games while listed a host of safety measures for those who will be making the trip for the August 5 to 21 Games.
The IOC, in its notice, has said although Zika is nearly always spread by mosquitoes, cases of sexual transmission have been documented. Even the WHO has said sexual transmission of Zika is more common.
The IOC circular on Zika says: “Pregnant women should not travel to areas of ongoing Zika virus transmission, including Brazil. Pregnant women whose sexual partners live in or travel to areas with Zika virus transmission should adopt safer sexual practices (barrier contraception) or abstain from sex for the duration of their pregnancy… Women planning to start a family should avoid conception for at least four weeks after leaving Brazil and consult a doctor.”
The WHO added that ‘safer sex’ should be practised. “(sic) Practise safer sex (e.g. use condoms correctly and consistently) or abstain from sex during their stay and for at least 4 weeks after their return, particularly if they have had or are experiencing symptoms of Zika virus,” it says in the advisory, a copy of which is available with The Indian Express.
Among other measures suggested, the IOC and WHO have recommended the use of insect repellents and advised wearing ‘light-coloured’ clothes that covers as much of the body as possible. It has also urged to choose air-conditioned accommodation, as ‘windows and doors are usually kept closed to prevent the cool air from escaping, and mosquitoes cannot enter the rooms.’
The Zika virus has caused quite a few of the top athletes to reconsider their participation in the Games. On Monday, defending Olympic gold medallist in men’s singles tennis Andy Murray told the BBC he will seek medical advice before making a ‘decision’ on whether he will travel for the Games.
However, in an email to the NOC’s, IOC medical and scientific director Dr Richard Budgett said that ‘the WHO continues to make it clear that there is no health reason to postpone or cancel the Olympic Games.’
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