The United States has now had over 1,300 reported cases of Zika, although experts believe the real number of cases might be as high as 80,000, according to Rolling Stone. While the virus isn't especially harmful to most people, it can wreak serious havoc if contracted by a pregnant woman, and it's been linked to microcephaly and brain damage in unborn fetuses. As concerns rise, some are wondering: can you get Zika for life? In other words, if you contract it now, could it complicate a pregnancy years down the line?
You can breathe a sigh of relief, because the answer is no, you can't get Zika for life. According to CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Zika can stay in your system for about seven days. "It does not appear that this is one of the viruses that stays in your body," he said in a CNN live Facebook video. "Unlike the AIDS virus, this does not appear to be one that hides and shows up at a later time."
On another good note: researchers believe that once a person recovers from Zika, they will likely develop immunity to it, protecting them from a second bout of the virus. While there's still a lot of research to be done, that seems to be the trend with other mosquito-transmitted viruses, such as dengue and chikungunya.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also issued reassurance that, unless a woman is currently pregnant (or will be in the near future, while the virus is still in her blood), she shouldn't be concerned about Zika affecting future pregnancies:
Based on the available evidence, we think that Zika virus infection in a woman who is not pregnant would not pose a risk for birth defects in future pregnancies after the virus has cleared from her blood.
That's not to underscore the severity of contracting Zika throughout a pregnancy, however. Researchers still aren't sure just how long the virus can stay in a person's system, so if you've recovered from Zika recently and are thinking of starting (or expanding!) your family, you should definitely speak to your physician and ask about next steps. Women who have recovered from Zika are advised to wait at least six months after recovery before attempting to conceive, according to The Guardian.
Six months may feel like a long time to wait if you're trying to conceive, but at least those mothers-to-be can rest easy, knowing that they'll have immunity throughout their pregnancy.