The World Health Organization (WHO) advises pregnant women to stay away from areas affected by Zika virus infection.

On Tuesday, members of the Emergency Committee (EC) gathered by WHO Director-General Margaret Chan had their second meeting to discuss about the cases of microcephaly and neurological disorders in Zika-affected areas.

Stepping Up At Once

The Tuesday meeting came only five weeks after the first gathering on Feb. 1. The committee focused on the new reports suggesting stronger links between Zika virus and serious complications. This resulted in the team posing more vigorous and finely tuned proposals.

One of the recommendations is to firmly advise pregnant women to stay away from Zika-affected areas.

"Pregnant women should be advised not [to] travel to areas of ongoing Zika virus outbreak," the WHO statement reads.

With the current analyses being made by the committee, Chan says there is no need to wait for a solid scientific evidence to carry out powerful public health interventions.

Committee chairman Dr. David Heymann agrees that they need to step up now given the accumulating data suggesting links between Zika and birth defects, particularly microcephaly. He adds that their enhanced regulations may aid other countries that are also currently making their own recommendations.

Other Travel Measures

Pregnant women whose husbands or sexual partners travel or live in locations with Zika outbreaks should ensure that they follow safe sexual practices or abstain from sexual contact throughout the duration of pregnancy.

For pregnant women who have already travelled to places with Zika virus cases, authorities must provide counselling services and follow up such patients regarding birth outcomes.

Authorities must provide updated information about possible risks and preventive measures to travellers going to countries with known Zika outbreaks.

Airports must also follow vector control protocols set by WHO and countries may want to consider disinfecting aircraft.

Other Recommendations

WHO also recommends improving risk communication in Zika-affected areas to respond to public concerns, enhance community participation, boost reporting and guarantee the correct implementation of vector control and personal protective interventions.

Locations with known Zika cases must be prepared with materials and health services required to manage neurological signs and symptoms and birth defects.

For the area of research, WHO recommends giving priority to the formulation of new diagnostic techniques for the virus. This is to assist monitoring and control measures, particularly supervision of pregnancy.

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