Couples Exposed to Zika Should Wait on Pregnancy
March 25, 2016 -- Couples who are trying to have a baby should wait a few months to get pregnant if either partner has been exposed to the Zika virus through travel, the CDC said today.
That’s true whether they’ve had symptoms or not.
Women who’ve been to an area where mosquitos carry the virus and have had at least one symptom of Zika infection should wait for at least 2 months to conceive; men who’ve had Zika should wait for 6 months.
Even if they haven’t had any symptoms, men and women should wait at least 2 months to get pregnant, the new guidelines say.
Denise Jamieson, MD, co-lead of the CDC’s Pregnancy and Birth Defects Team, said experts had arrived at those time frames by taking the longest known survival of Zika virus in the body and tripling it out of caution.
“These recommendations are our best attempt to try to provide reasonable time frames based on how long the virus persists in the blood and how long the virus persists in semen,” Jamieson said. But she admitted that there was still a lot that was not known about how long the virus may stay in the body.
Symptoms of Zika infection include fever, rash, red eyes, and joint pain. Most people who are infected never have symptoms, though, so the CDC said a blood test that’s positive for Zika would be another reason people should put pregnancy plans on hold.
People catch the virus mainly through mosquito bites, but it can also be passed through sex.
For most people, the infection is mild and goes away after a week or so, but it can be very dangerous for pregnant women. Recent studies have strongly linked the virus to an increased risk for miscarriage, stillbirth and birth defects -- particularly microcephaly, where a baby is born with a smaller-than-normal head and brain.
In rare cases, Zika, like other infections, can trigger a rare disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), where the body turns on itself, attacking its own nerves. The condition causes paralysis, and patients may need months of care to fully recover. In at least one other person, the virus was linked to brain swelling that put an elderly man in a coma.