CDC issues guidelines to prevent spread of Zika virus through sexual contact

By Doug G. Ware  |  Feb. 5, 2016 at 7:37 PM
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ATLANTA, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- With the Zika virus having arrived in the United States, federal health officials on Friday outlined recommendations to prevent infected people from spreading the virus through sexual contact.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the guidelines Friday, just days after two cases of Zika were reported in Texas -- at least one of which involved passing the virus sexually. In that case, officials said a man returned from Venezuela, where there are existing cases of the virus, and infected a partner through sex.

The CDC said men who have traveled to areas vulnerable to Zika should use a condom during sexual activity -- and that pregnant women should insist on a condom or abstain from sex altogether when involved with a person who has traveled to such regions.

Non-pregnant couples involving travel to Zika-vulnerable areas are also advised to follow the same advice.

The primary concern about Zika is a potential link to microcephaly, a condition that stunts brain development in newborns. The CDC previously noted that pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to the virus.

"CDC has issued new interim guidance on preventing sexual transmission of Zika virus after confirming through laboratory testing ... the first case of Zika virus infection in a non-traveler in the continental United States during this outbreak," the CDC said. "Based on what we know now, CDC is issuing interim recommendations to prevent sexual transmission of Zika virus."

"The science is not clear on how long the risk should be avoided. Research is now underway to answer this question as soon as possible," the agency added.

Because the spread of Zika is primarily achieved through bites from infected mosquitoes, the CDC has also issued recommendations to avoid risks of mosquito bites.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization declared an international emergency over the virus' spread. The first two cases in the United States were reported by Dallas health officials the next day.

Possible cases of the virus have since also turned up in Florida.

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