Calling the Zika outbreak in Brazil “dynamic,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising pregnant women, and women who are trying to become pregnant, against travel to Rio de Janeiro to attend the Summer Olympic Games. In a Friday media statement, extended its warning to include men, who may contract the mosquito-borne disease and sexually transmit the virus to female partners. Brazil has been experiencing a significant Zika outbreak since last May. The symptoms of Zika virus, which include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, are usually mild and last several days to one week.
The primary concern with Zika, at this point, is its danger to unborn babies. The virus can be spread from mother to fetus. Brazilian officials have noted an increase in the numbers of babies being born with microcephaly, a birth defect in which a baby is born with an abnormally small head, an indication the brain is not developing normally. A causal link between Zika infection and the birth disorder has not been proven; however, more than 3,500 cases have been reported in areas of Brazil where the virus is circulating.
Earlier this week, the CDC reported it is investigating reports of sexual transmission of Zika virus. According to the CDC, the number of suspected cases transmitted through sexual activities suggests this method of transmission is more likely than previously thought. Men who have traveled to areas with active Zika transmission should avoid sexual activity with pregnant partners or use condoms.
The CDC is urging pregnant women to avoid travel to areas experiencing Zika outbreaks. If travel cannot be avoided, travelers should take steps to avoid mosquito bites. These measures include wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts, applying insect repellents and staying indoors to avoid the insect.