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U.N. advises 6 months of abstinence, safe sex when returning from Zika zones

GUANGZHOU, CHINA - JUNE 21: An adult female mosquito is seen uder a microscope at the Sun Yat-Sen University-Michigan University Joint Center of Vector Control for Tropical Disease on June 21, 2016 in Guangzhou, China. Considered the world's largest mosquito factory, the laboratory raises millions of male mosquitos for research that could prove key to the race to prevent the spread of Zika virus. The lab's mosquitos are infected with a strain of Wolbachia pipientis, a common bacterium shown to inhibit Zika and related viruses including dengue fever. Researchers release the infected mosquitos at nearby Shazai island to mate with wild females who then inherit the Wolbachia bacterium which prevents the proper fertilization of her eggs. The results so far are hopeful: After a year of research and field trials on the island, the lab claims there is 99% suppression of the population of Aedes albopictus or Asia tiger mosquito, the type known to carry Zika virus. Researchers believe if their method proves successful, it could be applied on a wider scale to eradicate virus-carrying mosquitos in Zika-affected areas around the world. The project is an international non-profit collaboration lead by Professor Xi Zhiyong, director of the Sun Yat-Sen University-Michigan University Joint Center of Vector Control for Tropical Disease with support from various levels of China's government and other organizations. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Men and women returning from areas with Zika outbreaks should practice safe sex or abstain from sex for six months, the World Health Organization announced. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Men and women returning from areas with Zika outbreaks should practice safe sex or abstinence for six months, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.

Earlier guidelines applied only to men and only for eight weeks after returning from areas dealing with Zika epidemics. The guideline now applies to everyone, even if they aren’t showing symptoms.

There have been several cases of Zika transmission from asymptomatic men to woman and asymptomatic women to men reported, WHO said. Zika is transmitted primarily through infected mosquitoes, but also through bodily fluids.

Nearly 70 countries have reported instances of Zika infections from mosquitoes and 11 countries have reported person-to-person Zika transmission, WHO said.

Infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects. People infected with Zika can experience fevers, joint pains and rashes.

About 2,700 cases of Zika have been reported in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Zika remains a global health emergency, WHO said.