If You Visit A Zika-Infested Country, Plan On Having Protected Sex For A While
The Zika virus has rapidly spread across Latin America and the Caribbean, causing reasonable concern about the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) revised its guidelines, saying people who travel to Zika-infested countries should practice safe sex or not have sex at all for eight weeks — double its previous recommendation of four weeks. “The guidance is to delay or consider delaying pregnancy, certainly recognizing that this is tough for some populations,” WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said at a news briefing in Geneva.
Lindmeier also said women should wait six months before trying to get pregnant with a male partner who had symptoms of the mosquito-transmitted virus to avoid passing along a birth defect now connected to Zika (common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes). However, the agency didn’t specify whether couples should also wait six months if the woman showed symptoms, but better safe than sorry. Pregnant women are discouraged from traveling to the afflicted region altogether.
The virus isn’t very dangerous for adults, but when passed on to fetuses, can result in babies born with microcephaly, a birth defect that causes babies’ heads to be smaller than normal. So, WHO suggests being super vigilant about not getting pregnant after you or your partner has been to the Zika-infested region.
The virus is still being studied to find out all the ways it can be passed between people, according to Lindmeier. Because Zika is a fairly new phenomenon, it was just recently discovered that men can infect partners through their semen and it’s still unclear whether or not it can be transmitted through saliva while kissing.
The increased safe sex waiting period is a major bummer for anyone planning to attend the Summer Olympics in August. Brazil has continuing transmission of Zika, so WHO recommends athletes and visitors take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites while in Rio. Officials don’t think Zika is a big enough threat to completely cancel the Olympics, especially since visitors will spend most of their time in Olympic arenas, but WHO doesn’t want the virus to spread out of control when people from around the world gather in Rio.
Wearing mosquito repellant, long sleeves and pants, and staying in an air-conditioned hotel are all pretty minor adjustments to make on the trip, but now attendees should either abstain from sex or use condoms for at least eight weeks after returning home. That’s one and a half months without sex if you choose to go the super safe route. So, plan accordingly and know that your sex life will be very different (or non-existent) for a while.