New Zealand athletes to discuss Zika risk

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand's Olympic athletes and officials have been warned of the risk associated with the Zika virus on Friday, including the possibility that it could be sexually transmitted.

The spread of the virus across Latin America and the Caribbean have put the Rio Olympics in the spotlight with the Games' authorities working to eradicate the mosquito that has been attributed as the principal cause of the outbreak.

Health officials in Dallas County, however, reported on Tuesday the first known case contracted in the United States was a person infected after having sex with somebody who had returned from Venezuela.

World Health Organisation officials have said the possibility of sexual transmission had added a new dimension to the outbreak, though it needed to be investigated further.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) had its first Rio Games briefing on Friday with athletes and officials in Christchurch, New Zealand's second-largest city, with the virus and other health issues being discussed.

"We did talk about it the possibility it could be transmitted (sexually)... and that people needed to be mindful of that," a NZOC spokeswoman told Reuters.

They had also given the athletes information on preventative measures such as using insect repellent and mosquito nets, and avoiding areas of standing water.

Following information from New Zealand's Health Ministry, pregnant women were advised to avoid Zika-infected areas, while people planning to have a family should avoid pregnancy until at least four weeks after returning home, she added.

The virus has been linked to microcephaly, a condition that causes severe birth defects, though health officials are yet to establish a direct causal relationship.

None of the athletes had asked any questions following the briefing, or expressed any concerns about it, she said.

Several female athletes have told local media in the last week they were still planning to compete in Rio, while Olympic champion shot putter Valerie Adams was expected to defend her title, her manager said on Friday.

"We have discussed the situation but nothing has changed in our mind in terms of changing plans for Rio at all," Nick Cowan told Reuters.

"There is still a lot more information to come out about it. You have to take it seriously but it's too early to make a judgement at this point.

"Nothing at the moment has been presented to us that we shouldn't be going to Rio. It would be foolish to me to say that's not going to change but I don't see any reason at the moment why it would."

(Editing by Ken Ferris/John O'Brien)

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