CDC Updates Guidelines on Sexual Transmission of Zika Virus

Pregnant women are at risk of exposure from partners of either gender

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its Zika virus guidelines, saying that pregnant women could contract Zika from a sex partner of either gender.

This expanded guidance is based on a recently reported case of female-to-male sexual transmission in New York and on limited human and nonhuman primate data indicating that Zika virus RNA can be detected in vaginal secretions. It expands the CDC’s definition of sexual exposure to Zika to include sex without a barrier method (including male or female condoms, among other methods) with any person––male or female––who has traveled to or lives in an area with Zika virus. The updated recommendations for pregnant couples include pregnant women with female sex partners who are potentially infected with the Zika virus. They also give advice for potentially infected women about how to reduce their risk of sexually transmitting the virus to partners.

Although the transmission of Zika virus from a woman to her sex partners is believed to be uncommon and (as with most Zika infections) unlikely to result in serious adverse effects, it could present a risk for pregnant women with female sex partners who may be infected with the virus. For this reason, the CDC recommends that all pregnant women with sex partners (male or female) who live in or have traveled to an area with Zika virus use condoms during sex or abstain from sex for the remainder of their pregnancy. All other couples in which a partner (male or female) has been in an area with Zika virus can also reduce the risk of sexual transmission by using condoms or abstaining from sex. Sex includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex, and may also include the sharing of sex toys.

Health care providers should test all pregnant women who may have been exposed to Zika sexually. Health care providers should also test any patients for Zika virus infection if they develop symptoms of the infection and should report potential sexual exposure to a partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika virus.

Source: CDC; July 25, 2016.