Zika Found In Semen of Infected Men, Sexual Vigilance Critical For Those Exposed To Virus

By  //  February 19, 2016

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NOT CLEAR HOW LONG ZIKA LIVES IN SEMEN

sperm and egg

Mosquito-borne Zika has been found in the semen of infected men, and we don’t know how long it stays there and over what period of time a man can transmit the virus through sex. (Shutterstock)

In light of a surge in microcephalic infant births in Brazil believed to stem from the mosquito-borne Zika virus, the U.S. Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) is urging expectant mothers or women planning to get pregnant to avoid visiting countries where the risk of exposure to the virus-harboring mosquito is greatest.

With Brazil, the host of the 2016 summer Olympics, one of those high risk countries, Hope Solo, a star member of the U.S. women’s soccer team, said that she considered the risk of contracting Zika at the games a reason to strongly consider not participating.

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Hope Solo (above), star goalie for the U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team, has voiced concern over the risk of contracting the Zika virus at the Olympic games in Brazil this summer.

“I do not accept being forced into making the decision between competing for my country and sacrificing the potential health of a child, or staying home and giving up my dreams and goals as an athlete,” Solo told Sports Illustrated.

However, what we know about the Zika virus at this time is that it is cleared from the blood stream within 10 days, which eliminates the risk associated with the virus of a woman later getting pregnant and infecting the fetus.

Reproductive experts point out the fact that as long as Solo isn’t pregnant when she’s in Brazil, or doesn’t get pregnant shortly afterward, she doesn’t run the risk of a mosquito bite leading to Zika-related birth defects in a baby.

CRITICAL QUESTIONS RELATED TO ZIKA VIRUS IN SEMEN REMAIN UNANSWERED

Unfortunately, Zika has been found in the semen of infected men, and we don’t know how long it stays there and over what period of time a man can transmit the virus through sex.

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The Zika virus lives for an as yet undetermined time in semen and can be transmitted sexually.

According to the CDC, one report found the virus in semen at least two weeks after illness. No follow up testing was done to determine when the man no longer had Zika virus in his semen. At this time, we do not know how long the Zika virus can be sexually transmitted from a male partner.

Since exactly how long Zika lasts in semen is unclear, and at the present time there’s no commercial test available to determine that, it’s not known how long a man needs to worry about possibly transmitting the virus during a sexual encounter that results in a pregnancy and putting a baby in jeopardy of Zika-related birth defect, such as microcephaly, a devastating neurological birth defect linked to the virus.

CDC ISSUES NEW GUIDELINES TO PREVENT SEXUAL TRANSMISSION OF ZIKA

The CDC will be initiating a study as soon as possible to determine how long Zika lasts in sperm.

In the meantime, the CDC has issued new guidelines for prevention of sexual transmission of Zika virus, and advises men who’ve returned from a Zika-affected area that they should consider abstaining from sex or using condoms for an unspecified period of time.

The CDC has also provided a comprehensive Q&A on Zika and sexual transmission on their website.

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According to the American Congress of Gynecologists and Obstetricians, “there currently is no evidence that prior Zika virus infection in a woman poses a risk of birth defects in future pregnancies.”

According to the American Congress of Gynecologists and Obstetricians, “there currently is no evidence that prior Zika virus infection in a woman poses a risk of birth defects in future pregnancies.”

Mark Wilson, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health told CNN that when the infection is completely cleared in women after 7-10 days, a long-lasting immunity occurs, which helps keep the infection away if a woman does get pregnant in the future.

Wilson and other infectious disease specialists told CNN that they wouldn’t hesitate to let their daughters compete in the Olympics — as long as they didn’t get pregnant between now and the games, during the games or for about a month after returning home from Brazil.

However, until more questions are answered about the virus and its presence in semen, Olympic men are best advised to seriously consider abstaining from sexual activity or using condoms consistently and correctly during sex during and after their time in Brazil.


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