Latin American countries should give women the choice to have safe abortions amid the current Zika outbreak, the UN human rights chief urged Friday, while researchers in Brazil reported that the virus might also be transmitted via saliva and urine.
Governments in Latin America should change their restrictive reproductive health laws the UN's Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in Geneva.
The outbreak of the normally harmless fever in the Americas has coincided with rising numbers of suspected cases of microcephaly. Babies born with microcephaly have abnormally small heads.
Some governments in the region have recommended that women should not get pregnant now.
"In situations where sexual violence is rampant, and sexual and reproductive health services are criminalized, or simply unavailable, efforts to halt this crisis will not be enhanced by placing the focus on advising women and girls not to become pregnant," said Zeid, the UN high commissioner for human rights.
In Brazil, which is at the centre of the Zika outbreak, abortions are only legal if the woman was raped or if the procedure is necessary to save her life.
Many other countries in the region have similar restrictions, according to the US-based advocacy group Center for Reproductive Rights.
Laws and policies that restrict access to reproductive health services must be repealed to protect women's rights to a healthy life, Zeid demanded.
This includes the availability of emergency contraceptives and maternal healthcare, the Jordanian UN rights chief said.
Meanwhile, researchers at the Fiocruz institute in Rio de Janeiro said, there is a possibility that the Zika virus might also be transmitted via saliva and urine, after finding a suspected infection in samples of the bodily fluids.
According to the German Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, it is a known fact that the Zika virus can been detected in urine, while researchers in Germany have also previously reported about traces of Zika found in saliva.
It remains yet to be confirmed, however, whether the virus can be passed on through saliva.
"We have to do a lot more research to be absolutely clear," Fiocruz president Paulo Gadelha was quoted as saying by the news portal Globo.
The news comes only days after health authorities in Dallas, Texas, said they had received confirmation of the first transmission of the Zika virus through sexual contact.
The virus is in most cases transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitos.