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02 Aug 2017

How does Zika spread? Not by kissing, according to researchers

The many ways Zika does NOT spread

Zika virus has been causing panic around the world. Till July 25, four cases had been reported in India.

However, there's one piece of development: scientists have found that unlike thought earlier, saliva isn't a carrier of the virus; it mainly spreads through sex and mosquito bites.

Now you can kiss, share cutlery and more without worrying (much) about getting infected. But should you?

In context

The many ways Zika does NOT spread
Researches conducted experiments on macaque monkeys


Researches conducted experiments on macaque monkeys

To check if saliva helps in spreading the virus, a team consisting Thomas Friedrich of Wisconsin University designed two experiments.

In one, they applied the virus directly to the tonsils of three macaque monkeys: all three were infected.

Next, they took saliva samples from infected monkeys and applied the saliva to the tonsils of five healthy ones.

None was infected.

The one time the results won't apply, according to researchers

"The only time this wouldn't apply is if the person had an extremely high amount of virus in their body," Friedrich said. Only one such case is known: when a man in Utah, with 100,000 times greater concentration of Zika than most, infected his son.

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Oral Sex

So is oral sex safe too?

The virus stays in saliva for two weeks, but in breast milk and sperm for months. "So transmission by oral sex or breastfeeding is possible," Friedrich said.

In fact, the team found that saliva might fight the virus with anti-microbial action.

However, Friedrich advises caution: "If someone has an infectious disease, it's best to refrain from kissing or sharing food until they are better."

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