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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: More Attention Needed to Prevent Sexual Transmission of Zika

While mosquitos have been the primary focus of controlling outbreaks of the Zika virus worldwide, there has been increased recognition of the importance of sexual transmission.

Now, a paper led by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher recommends that more efforts be made to reduce the risk of such transmission, including consistent international guidelines for travelers and their sexual partners, and more research into how the virus is secreted and passed on.

Writing in Current Infectious Disease Reports,  Dr. David Hamer, professor of global health and of medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues note that there have been a number of cases of male-to-female sexual transmission through unprotected vaginal sex with both symptomatic and asymptomatic male partners. Studies that have examined the duration of semen carriage have detected the Zika virus for as long as 188 days after symptom onset.

“Given evidence of virus shedding in the female and male genital tract, and highly suggestive epidemiological evidence of transmission through unprotected sexual contact, there appears to be a definite risk of asymptomatic and symptomatic travelers transmitting Zika virus to their partners after travel to endemic areas,” Dr. Hamer and co-authors wrote.

They said developing “appropriate messages” for travelers and their sexual partners about how to prevent Zika infection has proven to be a challenge. While most health authorities advise that both symptomatic and asymptomatic men and women wait at least six months after returning from areas with the active virus before attempting conception, international and national recommendations regarding minimizing risks vary, they said.

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