Zika virus
NEW CDC GUIDELINES: Women who may have been exposed to Zika virus should wait 8 weeks before having sex. Men should wait up to 6 months before having unprotected sex. The good news is condoms can help. Photo: CDC.gov

 

New guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week state women exposed to the Zika virus should wait eight weeks before having sex, and men should wait six months before having unprotected sex.

The UMHS Endeavour takes a brief look at what the updated Zika guidelines mean for the public and what future doctors at American and Caribbean medical schools should know.

Facts About Zika from CDC

Evidence has linked Zika virus to microcephaly, “a birth defect that is a sign of incomplete brain development, and possibly other problems such as miscarriage and stillbirth,” the CDC website says. Microcephaly causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads.

To help avoid Zika-related birth defects in unborn babies, the CDC recommends the following for women and men exposed to or diagnosed with Zika virus (and those with symptoms, including fever, rash, joint pain or red eyes).

  • “Women wait at least 8 weeks after their symptoms first appeared before trying to get pregnant.”
  • “Men wait at least 6 months after their symptoms first appeared to have unprotected sex.”
  • “In making these recommendations, we considered the longest known risk period for these categories. We then allowed for three times the known period of time.”

The CDC says those without symptoms of Zika virus but “who had possible exposure to Zika from recent travel or sexual contact” should be advised by health care providers to wait “at least eight weeks after” possible exposure before attempting to get pregnant to minimize any risk.

Men and women without symptoms of Zika virus who live in an area of known active transmission should talk to their health care provider about pregnancy plans, the CDC advises.

Zika virus cases have been confirmed in Central and South America and parts of the Caribbean. Approximately 273 travel-associated cases of Zika virus have been reported in U.S. states (as of March 23, 2016) and 258 locally acquired cases are reported in Puerto Rico (a U.S. territory). The U.S. Virgin Islands has 10 locally acquired cases; American Samoa has 14, the CDC says.

 

Condom Use Helpful

Condoms can be helpful, the CDC says. Please note the following suggestions from the CDC.

  • “Couples with men who have confirmed Zika or symptoms of Zika should consider using condoms or not having sex for at least 6 months after symptoms begin. This includes men who live in and men who traveled to areas with Zika.”
  • “Couples with men who traveled to an area with Zika but did not develop symptoms of Zika should consider using condoms or not having sex for at least 8 weeks after their return in order to minimize risk.”
  • “Couples with men who live in an area with Zika but have not developed symptoms might consider using condoms or not having sex while there is active Zika transmission in the area.”

For more information, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/zika/

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