Men and women of child-bearing age advised to take an abundance of caution to avoid being infected with Zika virus
Travelers to regions where Zika virus is ongoing are advised to protect themselves from infection. Zika is a flavivirus related to dengue, chikungunya, West Nile virus and yellow fever. Zika virus may cause microcephaly (small head size), brain damage and other poor outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus. Zika virus is also associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), an uncommon illness of the nervous system in which a person’s own immune system damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis.
Zika virus is spread primarily by the bite of infected Aedes species mosquitoes (most commonly, Aedes aegypti). The aegypti are found in tropical areas and the southern U.S. while albopictus are as far north as New England. Travelers are advised to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Since sexual transmission of Zika virus from a male partner is also possible, travelers are also encouraged to use condoms when engaging in sexual activity or avoid sexual activity.
The symptoms of Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes. Those with Guillain-Barré syndrome have muscle weakness. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to a healthcare professional and tell him/her about your travel. Take medicine, such as acetaminophen or paracetamol, to relieve fever and pain. Do not take aspirin, products containing aspirin, or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.
No vaccine or specific antiviral drug is currently available to prevent or treat Zika virus, therefore an abundance of caution should be taken by men and women of child-bearing age to avoid being infected.
Zika and Sexual Transmission
- Zika virus can be spread by a man to his sex partners.
- At this time, there is no evidence that women can transmit Zika virus to their sex partners.
- While traveling, if you have sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) with a male partner, you should use condoms the right way every time. Condoms can also help prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
- At this time, we don't know how long Zika is present in semen in men who have had Zika but it appears to be longer than in blood and urine. Also, we don’t know if men who had Zika but never developed symptoms can have Zika in their semen.
Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant
- If you have a male partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika, protect your pregnancy.
- If you have vaginal, anal, or oral (mouth-to-penis) sex,use a condom the right way, every time OR don't have sex with your male partner. Not having sex is the best way to be sure that someone does not get sexually transmitted Zika virus.
- Your male partner should also take steps to prevent mosquito bites to avoid spreading the virus.
- If you think your male partner may have or had Zika, tell your healthcare provider about his travel history, how long he stayed, if he took steps to prevent mosquito bites and if you had sex with your partner without a condom.
Men who have a partner who is or may become pregnant?
- If you live in or travel to an area with Zika, protect your partner’s pregnancy.
- If you have vaginal, anal, or oral (mouth-to-penis) sex, use a condom the right way, every time, OR don't have sex. Not having sex is the best way to be sure that someone does not get sexually transmitted Zika virus.
- You should also take steps to prevent mosquito bites to prevent further spread of the virus.
- If you think you may have or had Zika, tell your healthcare provider of your travel history, length of stay, steps taken to prevent mosquito bites and if you had sex with your partner without a condom.
Follow precautions to prevent mosquito bites
At this time, testing is being conducted only by the New York State Department of Health for the following:
- All pregnant women who have traveled to an area with ongoing mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission during pregnancy
- Non-pregnant women, men or children who develop or (developed) symptoms of Zika virus within four weeks of travel to an area with active mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission.
- All persons who traveled to an area with active mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission who present with symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome.
- Infantswith microcephaly or intracranial calcifications born to women who traveled or who did not travel to an area with active mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission.
- All pregnant women who, during their pregnancy, had unprotected sex with a partner who traveled to an area with ongoing mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission.
If you meet the above criteria, visit your health care provider. Preauthorization of testing by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services is required. Your healthcare provider must call 631-854-0333 between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. After hours, providers should call 631-852-4820.
More on Zika:
Suffolk County Department Health Services www.suffolkcountyny.gov/Departments/HealthServices/HealthBulletins/CDCZikaVirusAlert.aspx
New York State Department of Health https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/zika_virus/