- Now men and women are advised to avoid trying to conceive for 6 months
- Updated advice comes amid growing swell of evidence about transmission
- Studies have shown virus thrives in patients of both genders for months
- You may be infectious even if you don’t show symptoms, studies show
Mia De Graaf For Dailymail.com
Men and women should abstain from sex for six months after returning from a Zika-infected region – whether they show symptoms or not.
That is the new stricter advice from the World Health Organization as the virus continues its spread across Latin America, Asia and the United States.
Previous advice published on June 7 only urged men to abstain, and only for a maximum of eight weeks.
But a growing swell of research has shown the virus can survive in both men and women for months.
A growing swell of research shows Zika can survive in both men and women for months
ZIKA FOUND IN TEARS
Zika has been detected in tears of lab mice, a new study by Washington University St Louis reveals.
It is an ominous sign of another way the virus could infect humans.
The discovery explains why a number of Zika patients have developed an eye disease called uveitis, which leads to loss of vision.
For the study, the team infected adult mice under the skin, resembling the way people get infected by mosquito bites, and found live virus in the eyes a week later.
When tested 28 days later, the tears of infected mice contained genetic material from the virus, but not infectious virus.
The researchers said their findings raise the possibility that Zika could be spread through contact with the tears of infected people, but said that would have to be proven.
One key disturbing development emerged last week when researchers discovered a Maryland man had passed the virus to his partner after a vacation – despite never showing any symptoms.
And new findings seem to surface on a daily basis.
On Tuesday, a new study by Washington University St Louis found Zika can survive in the tears of mice for at least a week.
The discovery shows, yet again, that we remain largely ignorant about the mosquito-borne infection which is spreading across the United States.
Despite the intense efforts to control Florida’s outbreak, the numbers continue to climb.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were seven new local infections in Miami, bringing Florida’s total number of cases to 56.
WHO advises that pregnant women should not travel to areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission, and it warned people travelling to the Paralympic Games, which starts on Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro, to take precautions against mosquito bites.
‘We think that the risk for travellers and athletes is low, but it’s not zero,’ said WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic.
Zika infections in pregnant women have been shown to cause microcephaly – a severe birth defect in which the head and brain are undersized – as well as other brain abnormalities.
The connection between Zika and microcephaly first came to light last autumn in Brazil, which has since confirmed more than 1,800 cases of microcephaly.
In adults, Zika infections have also been linked to a rare neurological syndrome known as Guillain-Barre, as well as other neurological disorders.
Sexual transmission of Zika had been reported in 11 countries by Aug. 26, mainly through vaginal intercourse.
There was a first documented case of a man catching the virus through anal sex in February 2016 and a suspicion of Zika transmission through oral sex in April.
Though Zika is primarily known as a mosquito-borne infection, scientists are discovering more and more modes of transmission
Although one man had Zika found in his semen 188 days after the onset of symptoms, the longest period that the virus has so far been found to remain infectious was 24 days, and WHO said its latest six-month advice was conservative.
In another Zika sufferer, the concentration of the virus in his semen was 100,000 more than that in his blood 14 days after he was diagnosed.
Evidence on persistence of the virus in semen and its infectiousness and impact on sexual transmission remains limited and the guidance will be updated again when there is more information, WHO said.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ZIKA
WHAT IS ZIKA?
The Zika (ZEE’-ka) virus was first discovered in monkey in Uganda in 1947 – its name comes from the Zika forest where it was first discovered.
HOW IS IT SPREAD?
It is typically transmitted through bites from the Aedes species of mosquitoes.
They are aggressive feeders, commonly biting multiple people in quick succession, fueling the spread of the virus.
They are most active during mid-morning and then again between late afternoon and nightfall.
Scientists have found Zika can be transmitted sexually – from both men and women.
Couples should abstain or wear condoms for eight weeks if either partner has traveled to a country with a Zika outbreak, regardless of whether they have symptoms.
MOTHER TO BABY
A mother can pass the virus to her unborn baby during pregnancy.
There are two ways this can happen: through the placenta, and through the amniotic sac.
Since the virus can live in the womb lining, there is a chance the baby can become infected during birth.
ARE THERE SYMPTOMS?
The majority of people infected with Zika virus will not experience symptoms.
Those that do, usually develop mild symptoms – fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes – for no more than a week.
There is no specific treatment for the virus and there is currently no vaccine.
CAN THE SPREAD BE STOPPED?
Individuals can protect themselves from mosquito bites by using insect repellents.
They could also wear long sleeves and long pants – especially during daylight, when the mosquitoes tend to be most active, health officials say.
Eliminating breeding spots and controlling mosquito populations can help prevent the spread of the virus.
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