"Seek counseling from your country's health services about the risks of a pregnancy, what your options are, what support services are available, and so on," WHO spokesperson Nyka Alexander told CNN. "Women and their partners should be provided with evidence-based information to enable them to make informed choices about delaying a pregnancy or becoming pregnant."
Contrary to news reports last Friday, including that of CNN
, the WHO says it is not advising couples living in Zika hot zones to delay having children.
"Whether and when to become pregnant should be a personal choice, made on the basis of information and access to affordable, quality health services," Alexander said.
Corrections are meant to clarify, not confuse. And that's exactly what the World Health Organization says it meant to do last week when it sent media an email updating the previous week's guidance
on Zika and sex.
"Men and women of reproductive age living in affected areas should be informed and orientated to consider delaying pregnancy," said the email, with bolding as shown.
"This was the original intention of the guidance," the email continued. "The correction makes this more clear."
Based on that language, CNN, The New York Times
and other international news outlets released stories saying the WHO was advising couples living in one of the 50 countries and territories where Zika is active to consider delaying pregnancy.
The World Health Organization is now saying media misunderstood that statement.
"Some have interpreted the language as meaning that WHO is recommending that couples living in areas of Zika should delay pregnancy," said Alexander. "Instead, WHO is advising that they receive counseling from health care providers about risks of sexual transmission of Zika, and risks of Zika for pregnant women."
"Women should be informed about the options to consider before conceiving, including delaying pregnancy," Alexander continued. "The misinterpretations are understandable and we will be clarifying the language in the guidance."
Guidance for travelers
On May 30, the WHO updated its guidance
on sex and Zika for travelers. Men or women who visit any country with a current outbreak of Zika should wait a full eight weeks, instead of four, after their return to have unprotected sex or attempt to conceive a baby.
That holds true even if there are no active symptoms of the disease, as only one out of five people with Zika experience symptoms.
Men with known Zika-like symptoms should wait a full six months before attempting to conceive, said the WHO.