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CDC Warns Zika Virus May Be Sexually Transmitted

BY MARCUS THYGESON, M.D, M.P.H. – A few weeks ago the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a Travel Alert warning people to avoid traveling to Mexico plus more than a dozen countries in South and Central America and the Caribbean because of a mosquito-transmitted virus infection called Zika. Since then the virus has spread, including the United States where health officials have identified about 90 cases of the Zika virus infection.

Now, the CDC is warning the Zika virus may also spread through sexual contact as health authorities are investigating 14 new reports – including those involving pregnant women – where the virus was possibly transmitted by sex.

According to the CDC, there’s growing evidence that women infected with Zika early in pregnancy are giving birth to babies with a condition called “microcephaly” (small head) that results in severe developmental delay and early death.

The CDC this week issued a health advisory recommending men who reside in or have traveled to an area where there’s been an active Zika virus transmission and their pregnant partners to either “abstain from sexual activity or consistently and correctly use condoms during sex … for the duration of the pregnancy.” Similarly, the CDC is recommending for couples who are not pregnant but concerned about the transmission of Zika virus to consider abstaining from sexual activity or consistently and correctly use condoms during sex.

For more information, read this New York Times article and the official guidance from the CDC.

Marcus Thygeson, M.D., M.P.H., is senior vice president and chief health officer at Blue Shield of California