|Credit CDC - Zika In The Americas|
While establishing a causal link between Zika and Microcephaly may still be months away, as more pregnant women are diagnosed with the infection (including via sexual transmission), some public health agencies around the world are doubling down on their travel advice for pregnant women.
Previously the UK `encouraged' pregnant women to consider avoiding travel to areas where Zika is spreading, today they change that to recommending that pregnant women postpone non-essential travel to such areas until after pregnancy.
It's an incremental change, signifying a ratcheting up of concern, but it also gives the PHE another opportunity to repeat the message, and their advice on avoiding the sexual transmission of the virus from male partners who have recently traveled to Zika prone areas.
Pregnant women advised to postpone non-essential travel to areas with active Zika virus transmission.
Public Health England (PHE) and the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) have been carefully monitoring the evolving Zika virus outbreak in South and Central America and the Caribbean and are now issuing updated travel advice for pregnant women and advice on preventing sexual transmission.
Travel and pregnancyIt is recommended that pregnant women should postpone non-essential travel to areas with active Zika transmission until after pregnancy. This is a change to the previous advice which encouraged pregnant women to consider avoiding travel and seek travel health advice.
In addition it is recommended that women should avoid becoming pregnant while travelling in an area with active Zika virus transmission, and for 28 days following return home. If a woman develops symptoms compatible with Zika virus infection on her return to the UK, it is recommended she avoids becoming pregnant for a further 28 days following recovery.
If a woman develops symptoms compatible with Zika virus infection on her return to the UK, it is recommended she avoids becoming pregnant for a further 28 days following recovery.
Advice has also been updated for healthcare professionals. In the event that travel to an area with current active Zika virus transmission cannot be postponed, the pregnant traveller or those planning pregnancy should discuss with their healthcare provider the risks which Zika may present. In addition, the use of scrupulous mosquito bite avoidance measures both during daytime and night time hours (but especially during mid-morning and late afternoon to dusk, when the mosquito is most active) should be emphasised, and an information leaflet provided.
Preventing sexual transmissionA number of cases of sexual transmission of Zika virus have been reported, and in a limited number of cases, the virus has been shown to be present in semen. The risk of sexual transmission of Zika virus is thought to be very low.
- condom use is advised for male travellers if their partner is pregnant, during travel and for the duration of the pregnancy
- if there is a risk of pregnancy, or pregnancy is planned, condom use is advised during travel and for 28 days on return from an active Zika transmission area if the male traveller does not have any symptoms compatible with Zika virus infection. If a clinical illness compatible with Zika virus infection has been suspected or confirmed, this advice should be followed for 6 months following the start of symptoms.
- even if not pregnant or planning to be, couples who wish to reduce the very low risk of virus transmission may consider using condoms if the man has had clinical illness compatible with Zika infection