WHO advises pregnant women to avoid travel to Zika-affected areas
The World Health Organization (WHO) advised pregnant women on Tuesday not to travel to areas with ongoing outbreaks of Zika virus due to the potential risk of birth defects, according to Reuters.
Sexual transmission is "relatively common" and health services in Zika-affected areas should be ready for potential increases in cases of neurological syndromes such as microcephaly and congenital malformations, it said, as reported by Reuters.
"Pregnant women whose sexual partners live in or travel to areas with Zika virus outbreaks should ensure safe sexual practices or abstain from sex for the duration of their pregnancy," the WHO said in a statement, based on advice from its Emergency Committee of independent experts.
Previously the U.N. agency had advised pregnant women to consider deferring non-essential travel to areas with ongoing transmission of the mosquito-borne virus, which is spreading through Latin America, including Olympics host Brazil.
The link between Zika and microcephaly, where babies are born with small heads and developmental problems, as well as Guillain-Barre syndrome, which can cause paralysis, has not been proven but studies point in that direction, it said.
"Microcephaly is now only one of several documented birth abnormalities associated with Zika during pregnancy," WHO director-general Margaret Chan told a news conference. "Grave outcomes include fetal death, placental insufficiency, fetal growth retardation and injury to the central nervous system."
"It is important we recommend strong public health measures and not wait until we have definitive proof," she said.