HEALTH

The Australian Olympic Team Is Getting Zika-Proof Condoms

But it's the mosquitos they should really be worried about

HEALTH
Members of the Australian Olympic team — REUTERS
May 16, 2016 at 4:45 PM ET

The Olympics are an international sporting event in which the greatest young athletes from around the world gather to compete and, according to this Olympic sex travelogue from ESPN, have sex with each other in a giant dorm. This year’s upcoming games in Rio are facing extra scrutiny because of the looming threat of Zika—which has driven one country to send its athletes over with anti-Zika condoms.

But, while the threat of Zika is real, the Zika-fighting condoms, which will be accompanying the Australian team to Brazil, obviously only combat sexual transmission of the disease, the least common way in which it’s transmitted. According to the CDC, out of the 503 cases of Zika in the United States since  January of 2015, just 10 of them were sexually transmitted. And the disease itself may not be serious—only 20 percent of the people who contract it have symptoms at all. But it’s serious business if you’re a woman of reproductive age, in which case it may cause the rare birth defect microcephaly in babies, both in women who are pregnant when they contract the disease and those who become pregnant later. Australians seem to be especially concerned, with one, golfer Marc Leishman, pulling out of the games two weeks ago.

The CDC recommends using condoms if you’re afraid of getting Zika from sex, and athletes will have hundreds of thousands of them provided for free in the Olympic Village. The Australians will get a little extra from their fellow countrymen: The Zika-fighting condoms were created through a partnership between Australian companies Ansell and Starpharma, and are coated in an antiviral gel lubricant that the manufacturer claims will prevent Zika transmission with near 100 percent efficacy. They also claim to help prevent transmission of other viral STIs like HIV and herpes. But, while there have been a few documented cases of Zika transmission through sex, the vast majority of cases come from mosquito bites—and lots about the virus is still not understood.

To that end, Australia will also provide its team with insect repellent. South Korea has gone one step further than that, unveiling what it said were Zika-proof Olympic uniforms last month, which have been infused with insect repellent.

At the end of the day though, while the virus does pose a real risk—especially for reproductive-aged women athletes—the sexually transmitted infections that horny Olympians stand the highest chance of getting are the same old STIs we all have to protect ourselves from.