Sexual transmission of Zika more common than thought: WHO

Mosquitoes remain the primary driver of the transmission

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 09 March 2016

Sexual transmission of the Zika virus is more common than previously thought, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared, citing reports from across the world. In the second meeting of the Emergency Committee (EC), WHO also announced its recommendations on Zika. Mosquitoes remain the primary driver of the transmission.

WHO director general Margaret Chan said that cases of Zika have now been reported in 31 countries and the risk group is now broader. Other than microcephaly, nine countries have now reported increasing cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, that may be linked to Zika, Chan added. Guillain-Barre syndrome can cause temporary paralysis and death in people of all ages. She said that problems connected to Zika are now being seen in children, teenagers and older adults as well.

Chan also said that Zika can now be conclusively called neurotropic, affecting tissues in the brains of the foetus. In the first emergency committee meeting on Zika virus held in February, WHO said that the evidence linking Zika to neurological diseases was only circumstantial.

Bruce Aylward, who is directing WHO’s response to Zika, said the cases of sexual transmission of Zika seen till now have been from men to women. He doubted sex would play an important role in the disease’s spread, as per media reports.

The EC has given specific recommendations calling for research on Zika’s relationship with neurological disorders, its effects, history to ensure “rapid results”. It also listed recommendations on vector control and risk communication in affected countries. Travel restrictions, especially for pregnant women and safe sex practices have been recommended to curb the spread.

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