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WHO calls for increased Zika caution

The World Health Organisation yesterday called for increased caution to prevent the spread of Zika through sexual activity.

The international organisation now recommends that those who travel to areas with a Zika outbreak practise safe sex or abstain from sexual relations for six months after returning, even if there are no apparent symptoms of the virus.

The updated guidance matches recommendations issued by the Department of Health last month. While most people who contract the virus experience no symptoms or only minor symptoms, Zika has been linked to birth defects in the children of women who catch it.

The virus is primarily spread through mosquitoes, but it can also be transmitted through sexual contact. A statement by the Department of Health late last month recommended that pregnant women avoid travel to areas with the virus or, if travel is unavoidable, to take precautions against mosquito bites and sexual transmission.

“If travellers to Zika-affected areas experience fever with joint pains, rash or conjunctivitis, they should seek medical attention and inform the healthcare provider of their recent travel history,” the statement continued. “The healthcare provider may order testing based on an evaluation of a patient’s symptoms and likelihood of encountering the virus. There is currently no vaccine for Zika and the healthcare provider will advise on how to treat any symptoms.”

There have been two reported cases of the virus in Bermuda this year. However, in both cases the virus was contracted while the patient was travelling overseas in a region with a reported outbreak. There have been no reported cases of local transmission of the virus, and experts have stated that the possibility of the virus spreading in Bermuda is low.