People back from Zika-hit regions urged to practise safe sex or abstain


People who travel to regions affected by the Zika virus outbreak should practise safe sex for at least half a year upon their return, health leaders have said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued new guidance to travellers extending the period of time for which they should practise safe sex or abstinence to avoid passing on the virus through sexual transmission.

The new advice for holidaymakers and travellers stands whether or not they are trying to get pregnant.

It has also issued to both men and women, whether they show symptoms or not.

The current epidemic began in Brazil last year. It has since spread to the Caribbean, other parts of Central and South America, Oceania - Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia - and some parts of Asia.

The virus's link to microcephaly among babies born to infected mothers was deemed to be a public health emergency of international concern by WHO earlier this year.

The mosquito that transmits the virus is not found in the UK so risk to the wider British public is deemed to be "negligible" by health leaders.

But so far more than 150 British travellers have been identified as being infected with the virus.

Some 156 travel-associated cases have been diagnosed in the UK since 2015.

The majority of cases, 106, are associated with travel to the Caribbean, according to the figures from Public Health England.

The largest number reported travel to Jamaica, followed by Barbados, St Lucia, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Meanwhile, 33 cases have been linked to travel to South America.

Professor Paul Cosford, medical director at Public Health England, said: "Public Health England is monitoring the international situation closely and the risk to the UK remains very low.

"We are reviewing the updated WHO recommendations alongside existing evidence, and will make appropriate changes to our advice if necessary."