This new map shows how Zika could spread beyond Latin America
The World Health Organization is advising people living in areas where the Zika virus is actively spreading to delay pregnancy.
While Zika is mainly spread by mosquitoes, it can also be transmitted through sex. The virus has been linked to severe complications in pregnancy including microcephaly, a birth defect where babies are born with unusually small heads and associated brain abnormalities.
The advice will affect men and women in some 60 countries. It comes as a new map shows mosquitoes that can carry Zika are found in 40 US states and Washington DC.
Currently, Zika is only present in the US territories of Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands. But local outbreaks are expected in the continental US as mosquito season gets under way.
Several countries affected by Zika have already issued similar warnings to the WHO. However, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not told women to avoid pregnancy unless they are infected with the virus. The CDC advises women in the US territories where Zika is being transmitted to discuss the risks with their doctors.
The CDC has advised all pregnant women to avoid travel to areas with active Zika transmission.
What is Zika?
First discovered in Uganda in 1947, Zika is a mosquito-borne disease causing fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. For almost everyone infected, the effects are short-lived. But in women who are pregnant, the virus exposes the fetus to the risk of microcephaly.
There were very few reported cases of the disease prior to 2007. However, a significant outbreak in South and Central America led the WHO to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern – for just the fourth time in history.
The WHO has described its spread as explosive, and has previously warned that 3 to 4 million people in the region could be affected this year.
Have you read? This map shows the risk of Zika in cities around the world What we need to find out about Zika and pregnanc y
SOURCE: World Economic Forum