07 Oct 2016

Zika virus: advice on the prevention of sexual transmission

Public Health England has published guidance on the likelihood of sexual transmission of Zika virus and ways to prevent this Zika virus: advice on the prevention of sexual transmission

Public Health England (PHE) continues to review the current evidence for sexual transmission of Zika virus (ZIKV), and notes the recent development in advice from the World Health Organization, which is highly precautionary. Based on all the available information to date, PHE does not advise any major changes to its current advice.

Most ZIKV infections are transmitted via Aedes mosquitoes. There have been reports of sexual transmission, the majority involving men who experienced typical symptoms of ZIKV infection at, or before, the estimated time of sexual transmission to their female partners.

Sexual transmission of ZIKV from asymptomatic individuals (those without symptoms), female to male partners, and from male to male partners has also been reported, although these appear to be a rare events. To reduce the risk of conception and being exposed to ZIKV, effective contraceptive and barrier methods should be consistently used whilst travelling and:

If a man has clinical illness compatible with ZIKV infection, barrier methods of contraception should continue at the onset of the illness and for the following six months.

If a man has returned from an area with high or moderate ZIKV risk, but does not experience symptoms, condom use is advised for eight weeks after leaving the area.

If a woman, irrespective of whether she has experienced symptoms, has returned from an area with high or moderate Zika virus risk, barrier methods of contraception should continue for eight weeks after leaving the risk area.

Detailed advice for travellers who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or of child-bearing age (and their sexual partners) is available from PHE.  

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