As reports that it's spreading to more states in the U.S., the World Health Organization has released a new set of guidelines regarding the Zika virus. The guidelines, which replace a February 2016 set of guidelines, are meant for the public, physicians, and for politicians alike to understand the recent history of the Zika outbreak, it’s ability to be spread through sexual contact, and suggested steps to prevent the virus from spreading.
The report explains that sexual transmission, while previously known, is much more common than it was expected to be. This includes sex between two men, as the first male-to-male Zika virus transmission earlier this year. This method of transmission is of great concern in particular due to the virus’ ability to cause complications during pregnancy as well as harm to the fetus, including microcephaly, Gullain-Barré syndrome, and other neurological complications that can limit the lifespan or survival of children born who were exposed to the virus. It also suggests that semen and urine can carry the virus up to 62 days after symptoms show up in infected individuals.
The WHO encourages condom use in areas where the virus is found, as well as development of emergency contraception services for women who have condomless sex, but do not desire children. Pregnant women who are sexually active who are living in, or returning from, areas where Zika is known to occur are encouraged to use condoms or abstain from sex completely for the duration of pregnancy.
Perhaps the most important warning issued by the WHO is that individuals returning from areas where Zika transmission occurs are encouraged to use condoms or to abstain for an eight week period after returning home.
The WHO publication can be read in full here in English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, Spanish, and Portuguese, and a directory of all WHO publications focused on Zika can be found here. A list of states that have had Zika infections are here.