In Brazil, pregnant women urged to be cautious with a kiss

Posted at 11:56 AM, Feb 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-05 11:56:19-05

LONDON (AP) — A Brazilian health official on Friday warned pregnant women to think twice before giving a kiss as concern grows over the Zika virus suspected of a link to birth defects, and the U.N. office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said women in countries hit by the Zika virus should have access to birth control methods, dropping laws against abortion in some cases.

Paulo Gadelha, president of the Fiocruz research institute, said at a news conference that scientists have found live samples of the virus in saliva and urine samples, and the possibility it could be spread by the two body fluids requires further study.

He said that calls for special precaution to be taken with pregnant women.

Gadelha suggested pregnant women avoid kissing people other than a regular partner or sharing cutlery, glasses and plates with people who have symptoms of the virus.

"This is not a generalized public health measure, for the love of God," he added.

Scientists at the Fiocruz institute say they're trying to determine if the body fluids can spread Zika to new patients.

Meanwhile in Geneva, spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly said the OHCHR was asking governments in Zika-affected countries in Latin and South America to repeal any policies that break with international standards and restrict access to sexual and reproductive health services, including abortion.

"We are asking those governments to go back and change those laws," she said. "Because how can they ask those women not to become pregnant but also not offer them first information that is available, but the possibility to stop their pregnancies if they wish?"

Pouilly said that about a quarter of women had experienced physical or sexual violence in El Salvador in the past year.

"So that also shows that many of these pregnancies are out of their control and countries obviously have to take that into account," she said. Pouilly said that safe abortion services should be provided to the full extent of the law. "The key point is that women should have the choice and (make) informed decisions," she said. "Women should be able to have an abortion if they want."

To date, the mosquito-borne virus has spread to more than 20 countries in the Americas, including some where sexual violence is rampant, Al Hussein said. He called for laws restricting access to sexual and reproductive health services to be urgently reviewed.

On Monday, the World Health Organization declared the explosive spread of Zika virus to be a global emergency, as it is suspected of being responsible for an increase in congenital defects, even though definitive scientific proof has not been obtained.