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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its guidelines to help couples who are thinking about pregnancy after exposure to the Zika virus.
The virus, which has been linked to microcephaly — a birth defect which leaves the child with a significantly smaller head than normal — typically is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito; however, it also can be spread from mother to child, and through sexual contact.
The new guidelines recommend men who have contracted the Zika virus delay having unprotected sex for at least six months after symptoms.
Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist Dr. Pritish Tosh adds, “Abstinence from sexual activity is ideal or the use of barrier protection such as condoms. The reason is that the virus can live longer in semen than it can in blood.
“Because for potential latency of the virus, especially in the semen, the recommendation from the CDC is that for men who have had Zika virus symptoms wait at least six months before engaging in any unprotected sexual activity.”
Warnings for men and women
Women who have the Zika virus should wait at least eight weeks after symptom onset to attempt conception.
Men with the Zika virus should wait at least six months after symptom onset to attempt conception.
Men and women with possible exposure to Zika, but without clinical illness consistent with to the virus, should wait at least eight weeks after exposure to attempt conception.
Men and women who reside in Zika endemic areas should talk with their health care provider about attempting conception.
Tosh calls the updated guidelines a critical piece of information that health care providers have been awaiting. He says the new CDC recommendations give clear evidence-based guidance for delaying pregnancy after exposure to the virus.