July 8th, 2016
There has been a recent epidemic of the Zika virus in the past few months, with thousands of cases reported in the Central America, South America and the Caribbean regions. Recently some cases have also been reported in the US region (1). Investigators and healthcare professionals in the US have conducted extensive clinical and research studies to learn more about the epidemiology, symptomatology, transmission and prevention of this illness to minimize the risk of morbidity and mortality.
Zika Virus is an infectious agent which is transmitted to healthy subjects via the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. The signs and symptoms of this disease are specific for:
The illness is ideally managed with simple bed rest and maintenance of optimal hydration. Sometimes, the symptoms are so mild that the person may not even notice them at all.
Although, the classical route of transmission is via mosquito bite, but based on the recent research, it was discovered that Zika virus can also spread sexually. The male partner can transmit the virus through sexual contact to his female partner. This can occur in the incubation period (the time period from the mosquito bite until the appearance of first symptom), during the illness, or even after the resolution of all symptoms. The serological analysis showed that the virus stays in the blood for about a week or more; but tends to stay longer in the semen. The women have not been shown to transmit the infection to their male partners.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been engaged in extensive researches to find out more about the sexual transmission of the virus and its detrimental effects on the pregnancy.
Poorly managed Zika Virus can aggravate the risk of developing birth defects in the offspring (if transmitted from an infected male to the female during pregnancy). These include
For couples who are expecting:
Since the virus can be transmitted by sex during pregnancy, the male partner should take following precautionary measures to prevent the transmission:
CDC has given few specific timelines for men regarding protection against sexual transmission of Zika:
Pregnant ladies should be tested for Zika if they or their partners have developed the symptoms of this illness. Other people who have been exposed through sex should also be tested.
In the end, prevention is better than cure, and an adequate level of protection can ensure the safety of you and your loved ones.
1. McCarthy, M. (2016). Zika virus was transmitted by sexual contact in Texas, health officials report. BMJ, 352, i720.
2. Oster, A. M. (2016). Interim guidelines for prevention of sexual transmission of Zika virus—United States, 2016. MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report, 65.
3. Driggers, R. W., Ho, C. Y., Korhonen, E. M., Kuivanen, S., Jääskeläinen, A. J., Smura, T., … & Timofeev, J. (2016). Zika virus infection with prolonged maternal viremia and fetal brain abnormalities. New England Journal of Medicine, 374(22), 2142-2151.
4. Hills, S. L. (2016). Transmission of Zika virus through sexual contact with travelers to areas of ongoing transmission—continental United States, 2016. MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report, 65.