Updated Zika Virus Guidance and Information Issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Zika virus map March 2016

Updated guidance, information and recommendations pertaining to the prevention of transmission of the Zika virus were issued earlier today in this official press release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Updated Interim Guidance for Pregnant and Reproductive Age Women

“Mounting evidence supports a link between Zika and microcephaly, a birth defect that is a sign of incomplete brain development, and possibly other problems such as miscarriage and stillbirth”, according to the press release. “The rate of these complications is not known but is being studied further.”

  • For women and men who have been diagnosed with — or have symptoms of — the Zika virus — including fever, rash, joint pain or red eyes after possible exposure to the Zika virus — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that:
    • Women wait at least eight weeks after symptoms first appeared before attempting to get pregnant
    • Men wait at least six months after symptoms first appeared before engaging in unprotected sex
    • The longest known risk period for these categories — multiplied by three times that known period of time — was taken into consideration for these recommendations
  • For men and women without symptoms of Zika virus — but who had possible exposure to the Zika virus from recent travel or sexual contact — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends they wait at least eight weeks after their possible exposure before attempting to become pregnant in order to minimize risk
  • For men and women without symptoms of Zika virus who live in an area with active Zika transmission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends healthcare providers discuss with their patients about their plans for pregnancy during an outbreak of the Zika virus; the potential risks of Zika; and how they can prevent becoming infected with the Zika virus

Updated Interim Guidance for Preventing Sexual Transmission of the Zika Virus

Updated guidance includes new timeframes for men and their non-pregnant partners based on the couple’s situation — including whether the man lives in or has traveled to an area with active Zika virus transmission; and whether he develops symptoms of possible infection by the Zika virus. This guidance is based on currently available information pertaining to the duration that the Zika virus remains in semen and the risks associated with the Zika virus based on whether or not men had symptoms of infection:

  • Couples with men who have confirmed infection or symptoms of the Zika virus should consider either using condoms in a proper manner from start to finish every time they have sex; or abstaining from sexual activity for at least six months after symptoms begin — including men who live in and who traveled to areas known to have active transmission of the Zika virus
  • Couples with men who traveled to an area with Zika virus but did not develop its symptoms should consider using condoms in a proper manner from start to finish every time they have sex; or abstaining from sexual activity for a minimum of eight weeks after their return in order to minimize risk
  • Couples with men who live in an area with Zika virus but have not developed symptoms might consider using condoms in a proper manner from start to finish every time they have sex; or abstaining from sexual activity while there is active Zika virus transmission in the area

Increasing Access to Contraception in Areas with Active Zika Virus Transmission

“Because of the potential for Zika virus to affect pregnant women and their fetuses, strategies to prevent unintended pregnancy are a critical part of current efforts to prevent Zika-related health effects”, according to the press release. “Approximately two-thirds of pregnancies in Puerto Rico are unintended, indicating a potentially unmet need for access to birth control. In this report, researchers estimated that about 138,000 women in Puerto Rico may be at risk of unintended pregnancy and are not using one of the most effective or moderately effective forms of birth control.”

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified considerations and challenges in reducing unintended pregnancies in areas with active transmission of the Zika virus based on the statistics for Puerto Rico; and they recommend that women and their partners who do not want to become pregnant now should be advised about the range of effective birth control methods which are available — as well as counseled pertaining to the importance of the correct and consistent use of those methods if they indeed do not want to become pregnant.

Prevention of the Spread of the Zika Virus

In addition to the aforementioned information, the most effective form of prevention is to proactively protect yourself against mosquito bites — in order to both prevent contracting the Zika virus disease and to prevent its spread if you are already infected — with the following steps:

  • Use insect repellent
  • Wear clothes — preferably with light colors — which cover as much of your body as possible
  • Use physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows
  • Sleep under mosquito nets
  • Empty, clean or cover containers which can hold water — such as buckets, flower pots or tires — so that places where mosquitoes can breed are removed
  • Young children, sick people and elderly people are three examples of those who may not be able to protect themselves adequately and could use assistance and special attention

Countries and Territories with Active Zika Virus Transmission

The virus can be expected to spread further, as the mosquitoes which carry it can be found across the following 39 countries and territories with active Zika virus transmission:

  • Aruba
  • American Samoa
  • Barbados
  • Bolivia
  • Bonaire
  • Brazil
  • Cape Verde
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Cuba
  • Curaçao
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • French Guiana
  • Guadeloupe
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Jamaica
  • Marshall Islands
  • Martinique
  • Mexico
  • New Caledonia
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Puerto Rico
  • Saint Martin
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Samoa
  • Sint Maarten
  • Suriname
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United States Virgin Islands
  • Venezuela

Summary

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will continue to update its guidance related to transmission of the Zika virus and related health effects based on the accumulating evidence, expert opinion, and knowledge about the risk associated with other viral infections.

The chances of a healthy individual person being adversely affected by the Zika virus seems to be minimal at best; but awareness and proactive prevention are still necessary to mitigate the spread of this virus to other people, as people are the main vehicles for spreading the virus — similarly to malaria, as transmission is via mosquito.

Although you should not consider curtailing your travel plans if you are a healthy individual, airlines have been known to offer refunds or waivers of fees for changes in itineraries to countries and territories with active Zika virus transmission. If you are concerned or are someone who could be affected by this virus, this is your opportunity to alter your travel plans accordingly without penalty.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Comments

  1. Will Smith says

    That map is seriously inaccurate!!! Most of tropical and subtropical Asia have also reported Zika. It is also found in Africa. I think you would be safer using a map that shows Dengue Fever or Yellow Fever which are both transmitted by the same mosquito, Aedes aegypti as Zika. I would also suspect the Florida Keys and south Florida and portions of Texas and Louisiana would soon report cases of Zika. Take the necessary precautions even if you cannot become pregnant, Some people can develop Guillain-Barré syndrome as a result of Zika and the recovery may never be complete and in a few cases the outcome is fatal.

    • Brian Cohen says

      Ironically, Will Smith, the source of that map is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the same organization from where I would have gotten a map which shows Dengue Fever or Yellow Fever, which are the maps the American Red Cross uses for information as to who should donate blood depending on where the donor has traveled during the past year.

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