The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention is asking pregnant women to abstain from sex if their partner has recently visited an area where Zika is currently active. The CDC's updated guidelines also offers advice for men and their nonpregnant partners. Sexual transmission of Zika is possible, and because the mosquito-borne disease has been potentially linked to birth defects, it's of particular concern during pregnancy. Earlier this week, a suspected case of sexually transmitted Zika emerged in Dallas, prompting concerns that the disease has found a new way to spread. Scientists have also documented a case in which the virus was detected in semen at least two weeks — and possibly up to 10 weeks — after the onset of symptoms. It has also been found in urine and saliva. One of the problems with Zika is that symptoms only appear in about 20 per cent of people who have it. Consequently, the CDC is advising that people take special precautions after visiting an area where Zika is currently making the rounds.
The new interim guidelines, released today, offers recommendations for men and their pregnant partners:
Men who reside in or have travelled to an area of active Zika virus transmission who have a pregnant partner should abstain from sexual activity or consistently and correctly use condoms during sex (i.e., vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, or fellatio) for the duration of the pregnancy. Pregnant women should discuss their male partner's potential exposures to mosquitoes and history of Zika-like illness with their health care provider; providers can consult CDC's guidelines for evaluation and testing of pregnant women.
As for men and their nonpregnant sex partners, the CDC says they "might consider abstaining from sexual activity or using condoms consistently and correctly during sex".
Zika, it's important to point out, causes relatively mild symptoms, and for most people it's nothing to worry about. Pregnant women, on the other hand, need to take note given what we know about the disease and its potential links to microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome.
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