The Zika virus has been largely spread by mosquitoes, but it can also be spread by sexual intercourse.
Men who may have been exposed to the Zika virus should wait at least six months before trying to conceive a child with a partner, regardless of whether they ever had any symptoms, federal health officials are recommending.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had previously recommended that only men with Zika symptoms had to wait that long. Those who may have been exposed to Zika but never developed any symptoms were told to hold off on trying to conceive for just eight weeks.
But on Friday the agency published revised recommendations based on new evidence indicating the Zika Virus can remain in semen longer than had been thought and can be spread by men even if they don't have symptoms.
"The updated recommendations incorporate what's been learned since the previous guidance was released," the CDC said in a statement announcing the change.
"The new time period for couples to wait to attempt conception when the man has possible Zika exposure but no symptoms [is] expected to minimize the risk of sexual transmission around the time of conception and prevent possible early fetal exposure to the Zika virus," the CDC said.
The Zika virus can cause a variety of birth defects when women get infected while pregnant. The most serious birth defect that has been linked to Zika is microcephaly which causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and badly damaged brains.
For couples planning to conceive who do not live in a place where the virus is actively spreading, the CDC recommends that men who may have been exposed to the virus by traveling where the virus is being transmitted wait at least six months before trying to conceive.
To prevent mosquito-transmitted illness, apply insect repellent to your skin and clothing with the Zika Virus Prevention Kit.
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