The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued new recommendations for couples who are trying to conceive and have been either exposed or infected with the Zika virus. Officials at the CDC recommended a waiting period based on current knowledge of how the Zika virus works and its links to birth defects, particularly in Brazil, where microcephaly has seen an uptick since the outbreak of the virus.

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According to the CDC, women who have symptoms or have tested positive for Zika are advised to wait eight weeks from when their symptoms first appeared before trying to conceive. Men who have symptoms or who have tested positive are advised to avoid unprotected sex for six months. Recent studies have shown that Zika can live longer in semen and can be sexually transmitted.

Dr. Denise J. Jamieson, part of the CDC’s Zika Virus response team told the New York Times that they’ve become “very concerned.” “We’re learning more every day and evidence of a link between Zika and a spectrum of birth outcomes is becoming stronger and stronger,” Jamieson said.

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For those who have travelled to areas where the Zika virus is in full effect but show no signs of infection, the CDC recommends a shorter period of time: eight weeks for both men and women. Jamieson noted that the CDC’s waiting periods were purposefully cautious, allowing “three times the longest period.”

The CDC’s recommendations come as a response to forecasts that predict that the mosquito-borne disease could reach the United States by July. A recent study in PLOS Current: Outbreaks found that major cities, including Miami and New York, were at high risk for Zika.

In their report today, the CDC noted that women in Puerto Rico, which currently has the highest risk, might not have the access to adequate birth control education. The agency estimated that 138,000 Puerto Rican women are at risk for unplanned pregnancy.


Image via AP.