U.S. health officials are looking into 14 different cases of the Zika virus found in women who had no risk factors aside from sexual contact with an infected male partner. It is presumably not the same man in every case.
The news adds a twist to how woman can protect themselves from contracting the virus, and how it might be spreading in the Americas. Reuters reports that Jennifer McQuiston, deputy incident manager for CDC’s Zika response, is recommending some extreme measures for people to protect themselves:
For pregnant women, the CDC recommends that if a male partner has traveled to an area of active Zika transmission that couples use a condom correctly and consistently for the duration of the pregnancy, or to abstain from sex entirely.
“These recommendations might seem extreme to people, but the truth of the matter is we don’t yet have good scientific data to say how long the virus may persist in semen,” McQuiston said.
Safe sex or abstinence has been a difficult sell for health officials in the past, but pregnancy is a more finite duration for the practice than one’s entire life. So far, there have been no cases reported of a woman transmitting the virus to a male sex partner, but that may because the focus of Zika research is largely on pregnant women. This new information indicates that the focus needs to expand.
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