Spain to publish weekly updates on Zika virus cases

Madrid, Feb 6 (IANS) The Spanish Ministry for Health and Equality has announced that it is to publish weekly updates informing of the number of cases of the Zika virus in Spain.

The Ministry made the decision in the wake of Thursday’s revelations that seven cases, including a pregnant woman, of the virus have been detected in Spain, all in people who had visited countries where the virus is prevalent, Xinhua reported.

All of those affected are “responding within expectations and do not suppose a risk of the propagation of the virus within Spain,” according to the Ministry.

Experts said it is unlikely that the Zika virus can spread from person to person in Spain, as only one of the two kinds of mosquitoes known to spread the virus exists in the country. This is the Tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) which lives in regions of the south and east coast, the Basque region and Aragon, but is largely inactive over the winter due to the cold.

The Zika virus reproduces more slowly in Tiger mosquitoes than in the Aedes aegipty, which is spreading the virus in Latin America.

In order for the virus to spread from person to person, a carrier with a sufficient charge of the virus would have to be bitten by a Tiger mosquito, which itself would then have to develop a large enough charge of the virus before biting another victim and thus transmitting the disease.

This process has been described as “possible, but highly improbable” by the Spanish Society for Infectious Diseases and Clinical Microbiology, especially given the current inactivity of Tiger mosquitoes. Any new cases in Spain are likely to be imported, it said.

US advises abstinence, condom use to prevent Zika spread

The US government on Friday urged men who recently travelled to areas where Zika virus runs rife and their pregnant sex partners to abstain from sexual activity or consistently and correctly use condoms during sex for the duration of the pregnancy.

The new interim guidelines, issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also said men who are concerned about sexual transmission of Zika virus to a non-pregnant partner might consider abstaining from sexual activity or using condoms consistently and correctly during sex, Xinhua reported.

The US agency also updated another interim guidance recommending pregnant women without symptoms of Zika virus disease can be offered testing two to 12 weeks after returning from areas with ongoing Zika virus spreading.

Earlier this week, the US state of Texas reported the country’s first locally transmitted case of Zika virus, in which the patient was infected after having sexual contact with an ill individual who returned from a country where Zika virus is present.

But the US CDC stressed that although sexual transmission is possible, mosquito bites remain the primary way that the Zika virus is transmitted.

“Because there currently is no vaccine or treatment for Zika virus, the best way to avoid Zika virus infection is to prevent mosquito bites,” it said in a statement.

Besides the Texas case, there are only two other scientific reports related to possible sexual transmission of Zika, the CDC said.

One involved a man spreading the virus to a woman and their sexual contact occurred a few days before the man’s symptom onset. In another case, Zika was found in semen at least two weeks and possibly up to 10 weeks after a man had Zika virus infection.

So far, there have been no reports of sexual transmission of Zika virus from infected women to their sex partners, the CDC added.

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