June kicks off the vacation season during which thousands of Cincinnati-area families and singles will flock to southern beaches in Florida, Texas, Mexico and the Caribbean, places where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. The mosquito-borne virus has prompted worldwide concern because of a link to a birth defect and its rapid spread.
There’s a dangerous misconception that only pregnant women need to be concerned about Zika, but Zika is a men’s issue as well. So long as a woman isn’t pregnant when she’s when infected, or doesn’t get pregnant shortly afterward, she doesn’t run the risk of a mosquito bite leading to a Zika-related birth defect. However, Zika has been found in the semen of infected men – and it’s unknown how long it stays there and over what period of time a man can transmit the virus through sex. Reproductively speaking, men–not women–have the most reason for concern after coming in contact with the Zika virus.
The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made it an official guidance on Zika that men showing any symptoms should wait six months before having unprotected sex.
While a blood test can determine if a person is infected with the virus, Zika can persist in semen for at least two months after a man becomes infected. This means that a man who has recovered from Zika could still pass the virus to a sexual partner. Currently there is no test to check men’s sperm for the virus.
While all domestic cases of Zika so far have been associated with travel, health officials are warning that the mosquitos carrying the virus will soon start biting and infecting U.S. residents.
The introduction of virus-carrying mosquitoes to the U.S. makes it all the more important that men take precautions with their sexual health. Men who have been exposed to the Zika virus or feel they may have been exposed should use condoms when having sexual relations or avoid sex all together.