Medical experts and researchers have been scrambling to come up with strategies to deal with the Zika virus threat. While a vaccine for the disease has not been created yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed several ways that consumers can keep themselves safe.
The prevention strategies have been available for the public for some time now, but a recent release by agency has updated some of the suggestions to reflect the latest information that has been collected. The new guidelines state:
- Women and men who are planning to become pregnant in the near future should consider avoiding nonessential travel to areas with active Zika virus transmission.
- The amount of time to wait to attempt conception for couples in which the man has had possible Zika exposure but no Zika symptoms has increased from at least 8 weeks (previous guidance) to at least 6 months after last possible exposure (updated guidance).
- The amount of time to use a condom to protect against transmission of Zika virus infection or not have sex for men with possible Zika exposure but without symptoms has increased from at least 8 weeks to at least 6 months after last possible exposure.
Zika virus information
The Zika virus is a condition that can affect anyone, but it can often fly under the radar. The initial symptoms are similar to those with a cold or flu, including fever, rash, joint and muscle pain, conjunctivitis, and headache. It can often be undiagnosed because some people have such mild symptoms.
However, Zika can be especially dangerous to women who are pregnant or looking to become pregnant, since the disease is known to cause microcephaly, a severe fetal brain defect. Other fetal complications include eye defects, hearing deficits, and impaired growth. In rare cases, consumers inflicted with the virus may develop Guilain-Barré syndrome, which can lead to paralysis.
Zika is spread primarily through bites from infected mosquitoes in the Aedes species, but it can also be spread through sexual transmission. Previous guidelines suggested by the CDC ask women who are looking to become pregnant to wait at least 8 weeks before trying to conceive if they have been exposed to the virus. Proper use of condoms can also reduce the risk of sexual transmission.
The CDC advises those living in active Zika transmission areas who are looking to become pregnant to visit their healthcare provider so they can learn the risks and create a feasible pregnancy plan. The agency releases weekly reports that can be found here, and additional information about Zika can be found here.