LIFESTYLE

Travellers Back From Zika-Affected Countries Should 'Practice Safe Sex Or Abstain For Six Months'

So far, 150 British travellers have been infected with the virus.

07/09/2016 10:22

People returning from Zika-hit regions have been advised by experts to practice safe sex or abstain completely for half a year.

The World Health Organisation previously advised travellers to abstain for eight weeks, however this time period has now tripled.

Experts said travellers should follow this advice to avoid passing on the virus through sexual transmission. 

The new advice for holidaymakers and travellers stands whether or not they are trying to get pregnant, and has been issued to both men and women, regardless of whether they show symptoms or not.

PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou via Getty Images

The current epidemic began in Brazil last year, PA reported. It has since spread to the Caribbean, other parts of Central and South America, Oceania - Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia - and some parts of Asia.

For most people Zika is a very mild infection and isn’t harmful, according to the NHS

However, in pregnant women it can be extremely serious, as there’s evidence it causes birth defects such as microcephaly - where babies are born with an abnormally small head.

As such, the WHO deemed Zika to be a public health emergency of international concern earlier this year.

While most people don’t experience any symptoms of the virus, those that do often report: rashes, itching all over the body, fever, headache, joint and muscle pain, conjunctivitis and pain behind the eyes.

Scientists discovered earlier this year that the virus can live longer than previously thought in a person’s blood or bodily fluids, which is why people are now being advised to practice safe sex or abstain completely for six months.

So far, 150 British travellers have been identified as being infected with the virus and some 156 travel-associated cases have been diagnosed in the UK since 2015.

The mosquito that transmits the virus is not found in the UK so risk to the wider British public is deemed to be “negligible” by health leaders.

The majority of cases, 106, are associated with travel to the Caribbean, according to figures from Public Health England.

The largest number reported travel to Jamaica, followed by Barbados, St Lucia, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Meanwhile, 33 cases have been linked to South America.

Professor Paul Cosford, medical director at Public Health England, said: “Public Health England is monitoring the international situation closely and the risk to the UK remains very low.

“We are reviewing the updated WHO recommendations alongside existing evidence, and will make appropriate changes to our advice if necessary.”

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