Geneva - The World Health Organization on Thursday urged pregnant women
not to travel to Rio for the Olympics and urged athletes and visitors to the
Games to take precautions to avoid Zika infection.
the widespread anxiety surrounding the threat of mosquito-borne Zika, which is
rampant in Brazil and which experts agree causes the birth defect microcephaly
in babies born to women infected with the virus, WHO issued its first
guidelines specifically linked to the Rio Olympics.
health agency, along with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO),
reiterated its recommendation to pregnant women "not to travel to areas
with ongoing Zika virus transmission."
includes Rio de Janeiro," the organisations said in a joint statement.
been the epicentre of the Zika outbreak now affecting 58 countries and
territories, with around 1.5 million people infected in the country since 2015.
which also causes the rare but serious neurological disorder Guillain-Barre
Syndrome, is mainly spread by two species of Aedes mosquito but has also been
shown to transmit through sexual contact.
Olympics and Paralympics, set for August 5 through September 18, "will
take place during Brazil's wintertime when there are fewer active mosquitoes
and the risk of being bitten is lower," WHO stressed.
nonetheless urged all those planning to make the trip to Rio for the games to
wear body-covering clothing and insect repellant to avoid mosquito bites and to
choose accommodation with air-conditioning, rather than relying on leaving
windows open for ventilation.
said they should avoid visiting impoverished and overcrowded areas with poor
sanitation, where the risk of mosquito bites is higher.
Due to the
risk of sexual transmission, anyone visiting Rio should use a condom when have
sex for at least four weeks after their return, especially if they had
experienced symptoms of Zika, or refrain from sex altogether, WHO said.
partners of pregnant women, the agency said they should practice safe sex for
the remainder of the pregnancy, or abstain completely until the baby is born.