CDC adds recommendations to prevent sexual transmission of Zika

- The CDC issued new, interim guidelines for Zika virus.

It was previously recommended pregnant women who resided in or traveled to affected countries receive a blood test to check for antibodies, or evidence of a past infection, only if she described symptoms, like fever, red eyes, joint pain or rash. 

The CDC is now expanding testing to all pregnant women who were in the designated countries where Zika is spreading. It is asking health care providers to perform antibody blood tests on pregnant women between two and 12 weeks after they return from travel.

Infections in pregnant women have been linked to a serious birth defect, microcephaly, although the association is not scientifically confirmed.  

The CDC is also adding recommendations to try and prevent sexual transmission

Although Zika is primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, there have been two reports of presumed sexual transmission of Zika, and one publication documenting the presence of Zika in semen.  

The virus isolated in the semen was isolated at least two weeks, and possibly 10 weeks, after the onset of his illness.  That man had no sexual contact and no further tests were done, so researchers don’t know how long the virus may have persisted in his semen. 

The blood test used to measure whether a person is acutely infected was negative at the same time the live virus was detected in his semen. 

In two additional cases, the virus was presumably transmitted to females through sexual activity. One of those cases, revealed in January in Dallas,Texas, is still under investigation.

It would be extremely difficult to determine if individuals who contracted the virus in countries where the disease is circulating in mosquitos, contracted the virus sexually, so experts don’t know how common sexual transmission may be.  

Because of these uncertainties, the CDC is also issuing the following recommendations

- Men who reside in or have traveled 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 (http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms) with their health care provider; providers can consult CDC’s guidelines for evaluation and testing of pregnant women.

- Men who reside in or have traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission who are concerned about sexual transmission of Zika virus might consider abstaining from sexual activity or using condoms consistently and correctly during sex. Couples considering this personal decision should take several factors into account. Most infections are asymptomatic, and when illness does occur, it is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week; severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. The risk for acquiring vector-borne Zika virus in areas of active transmission depends on the duration and extent of exposure to infected mosquitoes and the steps taken to prevent mosquito bites (http://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention). After infection, Zika virus might persist in semen when it is no longer detectable in blood.
 

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