WHO Advises Eight Weeks Of Safe Sex Or Abstinence After Visiting Zika-Affected Countries

'The previous recommendation suggested a period of at least four weeks, so we're upping (it).'

If you've travelled to a country where Zika virus is prevalent then you're now advised to practise safe sex, or not have sex at all, for at least eight weeks after returning from your trip.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has doubled the recommended abstinence period of four weeks which it originally advised.

Meanwhile if a couple is planning a pregnancy and the male partner has symptoms of Zika virus, they are advised to practise safe sex or abstain from it completely for six months.

The news comes after scientists discovered that the virus can live longer than previously thought in a person's blood or bodily fluids.

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Zika virus is mainly spread by mosquitoes found in the Pacific region, as well as South and Central America and the Caribbean.

For most people it is a very mild infection and isn't harmful, according to the NHS.

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

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.

In a press briefing, Christian Lindmeier, spokesperson for WHO, said: "People should practise safer sex or abstain for at least eight weeks if they are returning from Zika-affected areas.

"The previous recommendation suggested a period of at least four weeks, so we're upping (it)."

He continued: "The guidance is to delay or consider delaying pregnancy, certainly recognising that this is tough for some populations."

Lindmeier explained that researchers are looking into how long the virus can be traced in saliva, however these tests have so far been inconclusive.

"All this is being studied to see where else we find the virus and how long it sustains there," he said.