The Zika virus is spread by infected mosquitos biting humans, but it is thought that a small number of cases have occurred through sexual transmission.
There is also evidence that the virus can be transferred from a pregnant woman to her fetus.
Public Health England (PHE) and the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) have issued updated travel advice for pregnant women and advice on preventing sexual transmission.
Recommendations for pregnant women or women planning a pregnancy are:
- Pregnant women should postpone non-essential travel to areas with active Zika transmission until after pregnancy.
- Women should avoid becoming pregnant while travelling in an area with active Zika virus transmission, and for 28 days following return home.
- Women who develop symptoms compatible with Zika virus infection on return to the UK should avoid becoming pregnant for a further 28 days following recovery.
- If travel to an area with current active Zika virus transmission cannot be avoided, women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should discuss the risks with their healthcare provider.
Recommendations for avoiding sexual transmission are:
- 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 six 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 an illness compatible with Zika infection.