Now that it’s been confirmed that the Zika virus can be transmitted through sex, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that there are two options to avoid contracting the illness.
Zika continues to spread throughout the Americas, and the number of infected countries and regions has increased to 26 – the latest two additions
being Jamaica and Tonga. Although Aedes aegypti
mosquitos are the main route for transmission, recent cases have emerged where the virus has been transferred through sexual contact or blood transfusion.
According to the CDC statement
, “after infection, Zika virus might persist in semen when it is no longer detectable in blood.”
Zika is particularly concerning for pregnant women. Although not yet scientifically proven, the virus is strongly linked to microcephaly, a condition where a child is born with a smaller-than-normal brain and head.
Officials provided precautions for individuals who are sexually active and have recently traveled to a region where the Zika virus is ongoing. Whether an individual is pregnant or not, the CDC recommends abstaining from sexual activity (vaginal, anal, and oral) or consistently using a condom for every sexual encounter.
There are three probable cases of sexually transmitted Zika. The first case dates back to 2008
when it was believed that a man gave it to a woman. The second case was confirmed by the CDC
on February 2 when a patient in Texas became infected after having sexual contact with a person who recently traveled to one of those countries; however, this case is still under investigation. The third case was a single report of replication-competent Zika that was isolated from semen between two and 10 weeks after illness onset. No further testing was done and so persistence of the virus in semen remains a mystery. In all of these cases, the men showed symptoms – according to the CDC, Zika is asymptomatic in about 80% of cases.
“At this time, testing of men for the purpose of assessing risk for sexual transmission is not recommended,” the statement concludes.
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