The Zika virus has gotten a lot of attention in recent months as it rapidly spread through South America and the Caribbean. While there are many unknowns about Zika, health officials have been able to link the virus to microcephaly, which can cause unusually small heads and brain damage in newborns. Lots of questions about the virus are still unanswered. One of those questions might be if it’s OK to have sex if you’ve been exposed to Zika. There is a risk in sexually transmitting the virus, so health officials recommend getting tested for the Zika virus if you’ve been exposed to the virus through sex or if you have Zika symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says basic prevention can reduce the chance of getting Zika from sex. They recommend using condoms every time you have sex, from start to finish. They also say not having sex with someone who’s been exposed to Zika can eliminate the risk entirely.
The CDC knows that a man with Zika can pass it to his female or male sex partners, while he has symptoms and after his symptoms have subsided. It’s possible for men without symptoms to pass the virus, but the CDC still doesn't have any reports of this. The cases that the CDC knows about — including vaginal, anal, and oral sex — were reported that the man did not wear a condom. The virus can stay in semen longer than in blood, making it necessary to use condoms if you or your partner have been exposed to Zika.
While cases of Zika being transmitted sexual are much more uncommon than from a mosquito bite, the CDC thinks six people in the United States have become infected this way. Health officials confirmed the first instance happening in Houston in early February, where the patient’s partner had recently returned from a trip to Venezuela.
If you are pregnant and your male partner lives or travels to areas with Zika, extra steps should be taken to protect your pregnancy from microcephaly. The CDC says a man with Zika can pass it to his pregnant partner during sex, even if he doesn’t show symptoms at the time or they’ve gone away. The CDC recommends using a condom every time. Also, prevent yourself from mosquito bites, which can help reduce the risk of getting the virus altogether.
There is much more known about how a man can sexual transmit Zika, but the CDC still doesn’t know if a woman with Zika can pass the virus — through vaginal fluids — to her sexual partners. It also isn’t known yet if Zika can be passed through saliva during deep, open-mouth kissing.
There are still many unknowns about Zika, which doesn’t help an already worried pregnant or soon-to-be pregnant mind. If you are worried that you might have Zika or about possible getting Zika from your partner, the CDC recommends getting tested for the virus. Because the symptoms are very mild, much like the common cold, it’s hard to know on your own if you have Zika. As more research and news become known, following the CDC’s guidelines for safe sex can help you live your normal, everyday life with a little less worry.