CNN February 7- Men exposed to the Zika virus and who have a pregnant partner should use a condom or abstain from sex until the baby is born, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Friday in guidelines aimed at preventing sexual transmission of the virus.
Officials also said that pregnant women who have been exposed to Zika should talk with their doctors about testing for the virus.
While saying that the situation with Zika is “evolving rapidly” and that much had been learned in just the past two weeks, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden stressed in a news briefing that the primary concern with Zika at this time is protecting pregnant women and their unborn babies from a neurological disorder known as microcephaly.
“Each passing day, the linkage between Zika and microcephaly becomes stronger,” Frieden said. Microcephaly results in babies being born with abnormally small heads that can lead to severe development delays and even death.
Since November, Brazil has seen 404 confirmed cases of microcephaly in newborns. Seventeen of those cases have a confirmed link to the Zika virus. Fifteen babies have died from the condition, with five linked to Zika. An additional 56 deaths are under investigation, and authorities are investigating 3,670 suspected cases.
“The priority is protecting pregnant women,” Frieden told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta in an interview. “If you’re pregnant, and you’re thinking about traveling to a place were Zika is spreading, please don’t.
“If you live in an area where Zika is spreading and you’re pregnant, please protect yourself against mosquitoes. That’s the bottom line.”
Frieden also announced new guidelines for men who have partners who are pregnant.
“Men who live in or travel to areas of active Zika infections and who have a pregnant sexual partner should use latex condoms correctly, or refrain from sex until the pregnancy has come to term,” Frieden told CNN’s Gupta, “or until a test is available to see if he could possibly infect her.”
While a study that showed Zika only stayed viable in blood and saliva for a week, “We don’t know how long Zika can persist in semen,” Frieden said. “We’re doing those tests now, but it could be weeks to months before we have an answer.
“That’s why we’ve issued these guidelines now, specifically for male sexual partners of women who are pregnant.”