Use Safe Sex vs. Zika: WHO Warns

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Men and women re­turn­ing from any area where the Zika virus is cir­cu­lat­ing should prac­tise safe sex for at least six months. The ad­vice ap­plies even if a per­son has no symp­toms. It comes a few weeks after doc­tors dis­cov­ered the virus in the sperm of an Ital­ian man six months after he first had Zika symp­toms. Zika is spread in bod­ily flu­ids. The main risk of catch­ing the dis­ease is from in­fected mos­qui­toes via bites. Pre­vi­ously, WHO had said men without symp­toms only needed to use con­doms or ab­stain from sex for eight weeks as a pre­cau­tion against spread­ing Zika. Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, once a per­son has been in­fected, he or she is likely to be pro­tected from fu­ture in­fec­tions. Many peo­ple in­fected with Zika won’t have symp­toms or will only have mild ones - a fever, rash and mus­cle or joint aches. Zika in preg­nancy is the ma­jor con­cern be­cause the virus can dam­age the un­born child.

Brazil has been the hard­est-hit coun­try in terms of Zika in­fec­tions and there were some con­cerns about host­ing the Olympics there for this rea­son. There have been no re­ports of con­firmed cases of Zika virus among peo­ple who at­tended the Games, both dur­ing and since their re­turn. Ac­cord­ing to the WHO, 11 coun­tries have re­ported cases of sex­u­ally-trans­mit­ted Zika. More than 60 coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries have con­tin­u­ing Zika trans­mis­sion from lo­cal mos­qui­toes. Pub­lic Health Eng­land said it was re­view­ing the WHO’s new ad­vice and would change its own guid­ance if nec­es­sary. It said the risk to peo­ple in the UK re­mained very low.

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