This week, after at least 12 travel-related cases of Zika virus turned up in five Florida counties, Governor Pick Scott declared a public health emergency. None of the currently infected individuals have been pregnant. However, the concern is that babies born to women infected during a pregnancy are at increased risk for microcephaly (small head and brain size).
Today, the Florida Department of Health emailed all state physicians, hospitals and laboratories the Surgeon General’s recommended procedures for reporting new cases.
Zika is a mosquito-borne virus. There is no report of the virus spreading from infected women to their sexual partners. However, there is at least one confirmed case of viral transmission from an infected male to a woman. The sexual contact occurred a few days after the man’s symptoms appeared. A second case of sexual transmission in Texas is currently under investigation. In yet another case, the Zika virus was isolated from semen weeks after the individual was thought to have been infected.
In January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines for doctors caring for pregnant women who might have been exposed to the virus from a mosquito bite. Now, with the possibility of sexual transmission, the CDC just released interim guidelines aimed at men who have traveled to or live in areas of experiencing Zika virus outbreaks and their sex partners. These include abstaining from sexual activity or using condoms during sex.
The newest guidelines are particularly important in the case of Zika virus as infection is mostly asymptomatic and when illness does occur, it is usually mild and lasts for only a few days.
It is not known whether asymptomatic men can transmit Zika virus to their partners.
Recommendations to prevent sexual transmission of Zika virus will continue to be updated as more information on the incidence and duration of seminal shedding from infected men become available.