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CDC Issues Sex Guidelines for Zika Virus

Update Date: Feb 06, 2016 09:32 AM EST

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new safe sex guidelines in response to the Zika virus that has been spreading throughout central and South America.

According to the CDC, men who have traveled to a region with confirmed cases of Zika should either abstain from having sex or use a condom during sex if they have a pregnant partner. Men with partners who are looking to get pregnant should also follow these safe sex guidelines.

"We don't know how long Zika can persist in semen," the CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said reported by CNN. "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."

The recommendations were made after researchers concluded that the virus, which has been linked to a birth defect called microcephaly, can be transmitted sexually. A recent study also found that the virus can stay active in blood and saliva for one week.

"Each passing day, the linkage between Zika and microcephaly becomes stronger," Dr. Frieden said.

Microcephaly is a congenital condition characterized by an abnormally small head. Infants born with microcephaly can suffer from incomplete brain development.

 "The priority is protecting pregnant women," Dr. Frieden said in an interview with CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. "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."

The CDC stressed the importance of going to the doctor if women who are pregnant think they might have contracted the virus. Women who are planning on getting pregnant and might have been exposed to the virus should also talk with their doctor.

The Zika virus is a mild infection with symptoms that include a fever, joint pain, rash and conjunctivitis (red eyes). In about 80 percent of the cases, symptoms will not show up.

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