GPs warned to advise on Zika risk following rise in reports of sexual transmission

GPs should advise men with pregnant partners to use condoms for the duration of pregnancy after travelling to areas with active Zika virus transmission, even if they do not experience symptoms, official advice states.

Updated Zika guidance for GPs from Public Health England (PHE) warns that multiple cases of male-to-female and male-to-male sexual transmission of Zika virus have been reported, although the risk is thought to be low.

It is now the ‘scientific consensus’ that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and other congenital anomalies when pregnant women are infected, but knowledge regarding how is limited.

The guidance, produced in conjunction with the RCGP and BMA, says GPs should advise men to use condoms and their female partners to take effective contraception during travel to active transmission areas to minimise this risk.

As per the previous edition of the guidelines, men should be told to continue taking these precautions for 28 days following return from an active transmission area if they did not experience symptoms, and for six months following recovery if they did.

Zika virus advice

A new recommendation states that, if their partner is pregnant, they should maintain condom use during vaginal, anal and oral sex for the duration of the pregnancy, regardless of a history of symptoms suggestive of Zika virus infection.

Women are advised to avoid becoming pregnant for at least 28 days after they leave an active transmission area.

All pregnant women who return from Zika areas should be referred for a fetal ultrasound. Those with symptoms including rash, pruritus, fever, conjunctivitis or lower back pain should be tested for Zika infection.

The guidance adds that patients should not pose a risk to healthcare workers during minor surgical procedures or phlebotomy as long as universal precautions are followed.

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