Reconsider getting pregnant — at least for now. That is the cautious advice from the World Health Organization and other health experts as the devastating effects of the Zika virus continue to emerge.
“The spread of Zika virus will have long-term health consequences for families, communities, and countries,” the WHO states.
New evidence suggests a broader range of complications for babies born to women affected by the Zika virus, the WHO reports on its website. These complications could go beyond microcephaly to include the impacts on other brain abnormalities.
Based on growing evidence that the Zika virus can be sexually transmitted, WHO recommends women (and men) not only delay getting pregnant, but that they have ready access to emergency contraceptive services and counseling. If a woman is pregnant and her partner returns from a Zika-affected area, the recommendation continues to be this: Practice safe sex or abstain from sex throughout the duration of the pregnancy and wait at least eight weeks before trying to become pregnant if neither partner is symptomatic.
These recommendations will remain in effect until November 2016 if no new data becomes available, says the WHO.
Millions of couples in 46 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean are affected by the recommendations, The New York Times reports. In the U.S., clusters of cases are expected in Florida this summer as well as in Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.
The WHO further states on its website, in order to convey the seriousness of this virus, “The spread of Zika virus will have long-term health consequences for families, communities, and countries whose health systems will be challenged to care for children born with these complications.”