Men in the UK are being urged to wear condoms for a month after returning from any of the 23 countries affected by the Zika virus.
In guidance to health professionals, Public Health England (PHE) said the risk of transmission of the virus through sex was very low but condoms should be used as a precaution.
It said: “Sexual transmission of Zika virus has been recorded in a limited number of cases, and the risk of sexual transmission of Zika virus is thought to be very low.
“However, if a female partner is at risk of getting pregnant, or is already pregnant, condom use is advised for a male traveller.”
It said men should wear condoms for 28 days after “return from a Zika transmission area” if they experience no symptoms of unexplained fever and rash.
However, condoms should be used for six months “following recovery if a clinical illness compatible with Zika virus infection or laboratory confirmed Zika virus infection” has been reported.
US officials have ruled out a vaccine to protect against Zika in the next few years as concerns continue to mount about the spread of the virus.
Zika Warning: UK Men Told To Use Condoms https://t.co/MTqr72OBGU— Sky News (@SkyNews) January 29, 2016
The World Health Organisation has announced that Zika was “spreading explosively” throughout the Americas and “the level of alarm is extremely high”.
The WHO has set up an international health regulations emergency committee to examine zika and will meet on Monday to decide whether it constitutes a global emergency.
The last time a global emergency was declared was for the ebola virus.
Zika has been linked to thousands of babies being born with underdeveloped brains in Brazil.
Colombia has also seen a rise in the number of patients diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder which can cause paralysis.
The US has said it has two potential candidates for a vaccine for the Zika virus. While clinical trials may be able to begin before the end of this year, there will not be a widely available vaccine for several years.
In Colombia, health minister Alejandro Gaviria has reported a “substantial increase” in the number of people with Zika reported to have Guillain-Barre syndrome.
It is a serious condition of the peripheral nervous system and most people (around 60%) develop it after having a viral or bacterial infection.
Experts believe the infection may trigger the immune system to attack the nerve roots and peripheral nerves.
The WHO predicts 3m to 4m people will be infected with Zika in the Americas this year.
In a briefing to the WHO’s executive board earlier this week, WHO director general Margaret Chan said the organisation was “deeply concerned”.
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