CDC updates guidance on Zika transmission prevention & pregnancy: 7 things to know

The CDC issued new recommendations for Zika virus transmission prevention on Friday, covering three main topics: guidance for healthcare professionals on pregnancy planning after possible Zika virus exposure, guidance for preventing sexual transmission of the virus and considerations for reducing unintended pregnancy in areas with active Zika transmission.

Zika virus has been tied to the birth defect microcephaly, which causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads. It has also been linked to conditions like Guillain-Barré syndrome, paralysis and a deadly brain inflammation. The mosquito-borne virus can also be spread sexually.

"[The] CDC continues to learn more about Zika literally every day and, as we learn more, we're eager to share that information with you," said Denise Jamieson, MD, a clinical OB-GYN with the CDC's division of reproductive health, during a telebriefing.

Here are seven points from the new CDC guidance.

1. Healthcare providers should recommend women who have been diagnosed with Zika or have symptoms wait to try to get pregnant until at least eight weeks after the symptoms first appeared. Men should wait to have unprotected sex until six months after their symptoms appeared.

2. Patients without symptoms but who were possibly exposed to Zika should wait at least eight weeks after possible exposure to try to get pregnant.

3. Healthcare providers should provide individual guidance to patients who live in an area with active Zika virus transmission but who wish to become pregnant. "These are very complex, deeply personal decisions," said Dr. Jamieson. "Conversations about health risks of pregnancy can be very difficult, but are important to have. Healthcare providers should discuss the risks of Zika, emphasize ways to prevent Zika virus infection and provide information about safe and effective contraceptive methods."

4. The CDC updated recommendations for preventing sexual transmission of Zika based on available information on how long Zika remains in semen. For instance, even men who traveled to areas with Zika but did not develop symptoms should still consider using condoms or abstaining from sex for at least eight weeks.

5. Further, couples with a man who lives in an area of active transmission but without symptoms should abstain or use condoms while transmission is active in the area.

6. Men with Zika symptoms and a nonpregnant sex partner should consider using condoms or not having sex for at least six months after the symptoms started.

7. Recommendations for men who live in or have traveled to an active Zika area and have a pregnant partner remain the same, namely that the man should use a condom or not have sex throughout the pregnancy.

"Our goal here is to ensure that doctors and other healthcare professionals have clear guidance to inform discussions with their patients about possible exposure to Zika virus, pregnancy planning and timing of pregnancy," said Dr. Jamieson.

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