WHO releases new updated guideline on sexual transmission of Zika virus

The Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes, and can cause pregnant mothers to give birth to babies with a pattern of defects and disabilities called 'congenital Zika syndrome.'

The World Health Organization has released an interim guidance update underscoring the mounting evidence that sexual transmission of the Zika virus is not only possible, but more common than previously assumed.

The WHO notes that, as of May 19, 12 studies or reports have been published on the sexual transmission of the Zika virus.

Though the primary transmission of the Zika virus is via a direct bite from the virus-carrying mosquito, the WHO's latest update acknowledges the growing evidence for transmission through sexual intercourse.

Between 2008 and 2016, sexually transmitted cases of Zika have been reported in 10 countries (United States of America, France, Italy, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Portugal, New Zealand, Canada and Germany).

To date, all published cases of sexual transmission have been traced back to an infected male.

The update reminds the general public to practice safe sex using a condom, particularly important for those living in areas where local transmission of the virus is known to occur.

Couples or women who have returned from a Zika-sensitive area are advised to wait at least eight weeks before trying to conceive to ensure that any possible Zika virus infection has been cleared. That extends to six months if the male was symptomatic.

Likewise, men and women returning from Zika-prone areas should also adopt safer sex practices or are advised to consider abstinence for at least eight weeks upon their return.

Zika-affected areas include South and Central America, Cape Verde in Africa and the Pacific Islands.

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