Women in Zika countries should breastfeed their babies - WHO
Women in countries hit by the Zika virus should breastfeed their babies and there is no proof the virus can spread to their infants that way, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.
Zika has been declared a global emergency because of its possible links to a spike in babies born with abnormally small heads in Brazil. The country has more than one million infections and the virus is spreading explosively across the Americas.
In guidance issued on Thursday, WHO said while Zika has been detected in breast milk from two mothers sickened by the virus, there are no reports of Zika being transmitted to babies via breastfeeding.
WHO said there have been no cases of babies suffering severe neurological problems or brain damage after being infected with Zika after birth.
But the UN health agency acknowledged there were many unanswered questions, including how much Zika virus is contained in breast milk, whether mothers may pass on protective antibodies to their children from a previous Zika infection and how long the virus might persist in breast milk.
The agency said its current breastfeeding recommendations remain valid despite Zika's alarming spread.
"The benefits of breastfeeding for the infant and mother outweigh any potential risk of Zika virus transmission through breast milk," WHO said.
Zika is mostly spread to people by mosquito bites, although there have been rare cases of sexual transmission. WHO has also warned that Zika "may present a risk to blood safety" and noted two probable cases of Zika spread by blood transfusions.