US health officials warned women Friday to wait at least eight weeks before trying to become pregnant if they have been exposed to the Zika virus to avoid the risks of birth defects.
New guidelines by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said both women who have been diagnosed with the mosquito-bourne illness and those who may have been exposed should wait at least eight weeks before trying to conceive.
Men who have been diagnosed with the virus meanwhile should not have unprotected sex for at least six months due to the risk of sexual transmission, the CDC said. The agency had earlier recommended men who had contracted Zika use condoms or abstain from sex if they have a pregnant partner.
The CDC also called for increased efforts to prevent unplanned pregnancies in areas where the Zika virus is present, especially in the US territory of Puerto Rico, where it said two-thirds of pregnancies are unplanned.
The virus, which is mainly spread by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, causes only mild flu symptoms in most patients.
However, the outbreak in Latin American countries has raised international concerns because it has been linked to birth defects in babies, as well as a neurological disorder called Guillain Barre syndrome.
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