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    Sexual transmission of Zika Virus


    Advice for women and their partners

    Due to the suspected association between in utero exposure to Zika virus infection and congenital microcephaly, the CDC recommends women who are pregnant should speak to their physician about preventing infection and if they think they have a male partner who may have or was known to have Zika virus infection. The CDC has published guidelines for evaluation and testing of pregnant women.

    Women with male partners who are living in or who have traveled to an area with Zika are advised to either use condoms correctly any time they have insertive sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) or to abstain from sex during their pregnancies.

    The CDC recommends male partners of pregnant women should be using measures to prevent mosquito bites and that men who live in or have traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission and who have a pregnant sex partner should consistently and correctly use condoms during sex or abstain from sex during the duration of the pregnancy.

    Noting the lack of knowledge about how long Zika remains in the semen of infected men and whether infected men who remained asymptomatic carry Zika in their semen, women who are trying to get pregnant are also encouraged to speak to their healthcare provider and be prepared to discuss their partner’s travel history, whether he used repellents to prevent mosquito bites, and if they had sex without the protection of a condom.  Although there are tests available to detect Zika virus in semen, they are not widely available and interpretation of the results is unclear at the present time.

    Captain David M. Morens, MD, is Senior Advisor to the Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD. He said that while cases are rare, sexual transmission of other viruses has been recognized previously. In addition, he noted that the immune-privileged state of the gonads allows for virus survival.

    “It appears that sexual transmission may occur more often with the Zika virus than with other viruses. This is an observation, however, that needs to be confirmed,” Dr. Morens said.

    Information on Zika virus for health care providers, including information specific to obstetrical care providers, can be accessed at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/hc-providers/index.html.



    1. Oster AM, Brooks JT, Stryker JE, et al. Interim guidelines for prevention of sexual transmission of Zika virus—United States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016;65(5):120-121.

    2. Dallas County Health and Human Services. DCHHS reports first Zika virus case in Dallas County acquired through sexual transmission. February 2, 2016. Dallas, TX: Dallas County Health and Human Services; 2016. http://www.dallascounty.org/department/hhs/documents/February2016Newsletter.pdf.

    3. Update: Interim guidelines for prevention of sexual transmission of Zika virus — United States, 2016. Available at:  http://emergency.cdc.gov/han/han00388.asp. Accessed March 5, 2016.

    4. Hills SL, Russell K, Hennessey M, et al. Transmission of Zika virus through sexual contact with travelers to areas of ongoing transmission – Continental United States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016;65(8):215-216.

    5. Atkinson B, Hearn P, Afrough B, et al. Detection of Zika virus in semen [letter]. Emerg Infect Dis. 2016;22.Epub February 11, 2016]


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