Zika: Experts warn against kissing at Rio Carnival after virus found in saliva

Zika has been linked to microcephaly - which is feared to cause brain damage in babies 

Health experts in Brazil have warned against kissing strangers during Carnival parties, after the Zika virus was found in saliva and urine for the first time.

While the virus causes no symptons in most cases, it is most feared to due its links to microcephaly – a condition where babies are born with brain damage and undeveloped heads. More than 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly have been reported in Brazil since October 2015.

Scientists in Brazil found the mosquito-borne virus in the body fluids on Friday.

It is not yet known if the saliva and urine can transmit the virus, however the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, a Brazil federal government biomedical research institution urged the public to take precautions in crowds during Carnvial - where kissing strangers is part of the festivities.

"In light of the possibility of being in contact with someone who is infected, do not kiss, obviously," said Dr. Paulo Gadelha, the foundation's president.

Researchers at the institute pinpointed the virus in samples from two patients with Zika using genetic testing.

The discovery was the first time that Zika has been found in saliva and urine, scientists said. However, they stressed that further studies were needed to determine if those fluids could transmit the infection.

“[The results are] not proof that it can contaminate other people through those fluids,” said Myrna Bonaldo, one of the scientists who made the discovery.

The warning comes amid fears that Zika, which is transmitted by the Aedis aegypti mosquito, could be passed on by other means. 

Zika was passed on in blood transfusions in Brazil in two cases, as well as during sex in one person in Texas and two other cases documented in medical journals.

As there is currently no cure of vaccine for Zika, researchers have been attempting to create a treatment and prevention method for the virus – however this could take years.  

In the meantime, the public has been advised to wear long-sleeved clothing and insect repellent to avoid catching the virus, while the authorities roll out methods to cut down mosquito populations. 

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