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WHO Says Women in Zika Regions can continue to Breastfeed

Update Date: Feb 25, 2016 09:35 AM EST

The World Health Organization (WHO) is advising women living in areas that are affected by the Zika virus to continue to breastfeed their babies.

The United Nations health agency stated that although health officials have detected the virus in the breast milk of two mothers, there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted through breastfeeding. The experts acknowledged the fact that even though not much is known about how the virus affects an infant after birth, so far, no infants have developed any neurological health issues.

"The benefits of breastfeeding for the infant and mother outweigh any potential risk of Zika virus transmission through breast milk," the WHO said.

The Zika virus, which spreads through the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, was declared a public health emergency by the WHO at the beginning of this month for its potential link to birth defect microcephaly. A joint U.S. and Brazil effort examining this link have already begun in Brazil, where the number of microcephaly cases has skyrocketed over the past year. Microcephaly is a condition that occurs when a newborn has an abnormally small head and an underdeveloped brain.

Brazilian officials have also been working very hard to control the mosquito population ahead of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. This species of mosquitoes transmits other viruses such as dengue fever and chikungunya fever.

The head of the WHO, Margaret Chan, has praised Brazil's efforts. Chan, who met with Brazil President Dilma Rousseff and senior Cabinet ministers, noted, however that the situation could get worse before it starts to get better.

Studies looking into a Zika vaccine and better Zika diagnostic tests are also underway.

So far, Zika has been confirmed in more than 30 countries and territories in the Americas. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported a total of 82 cases of Zika within the U.S. All of the cases were travel-related.

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