Every pregnant and planning-to-be pregnant woman has Zika worries on the brain. And that is why we bring you a new development regarding the mosquito-borne illness that has been proven to cause birth defects like microcephaly in babies.
According to Health Day, a new report out of France, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests Zika can be spread not only through intercourse but oral sex as well. Evidently, a 24-year-old woman in Paris developed Zika symptoms after having sex seven times with a 46-year-old man who contracted the illness while visiting Brazil last February. Their encounters included vaginal sex without ejaculation and oral sex with ejaculation.
Yazdan Yazdanpanah, M.D., the report's co-author and an infectious disease specialist at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Paris, told The New York Times the couple was using oral sex to prevent a pregnancy.
Reportedly, the man had high levels of Zika virus in his semen and urine, but none was detected in his blood or saliva. Meanwhile, the woman had the virus in her urine and saliva, and antibodies to the virus in her blood, according to Health Day. Incidentally, no sign of Zika was found in a vaginal swab. That the virus was detected in her saliva is concerning as it begs the question: what other ways could Zika potentially be spread? The report's doctors said they can't rule out that the woman contracted Zika through her vagina or even during deep kissing, because the man's saliva was not tested while he had symptoms.
This frightening report comes on the heels of the Center for Disease Control announcing updated guidelines on how long couples should wait to get pregnant if they live in or have visited a Zika-infected area.
According to the new advisory, couples should wait a full eight weeks before having unprotected sex if they could have been exposed, even if they don't show signs of being infected. That's because symptoms are very mild in many people and include a rash, fever, and joint pain, which are symptomatic of many other illnesses. Some people, including pregnant women, do not show symptoms. If a man has been diagnosed with Zika, couples are being advised to wait a whopping six months before having unprotected sex.
For now, no one has contracted the infection in this country, although two babies with birth defects caused by Zika that their mothers contracted abroad have been born in the U.S. About 280 infected women are being tracked here and in U.S. territories, according to Health Day.
Experts expect to see local transmission in Gulf Coast states like Florida, Louisiana, and Texas as summer weather and mosquito-breeding season gets underway, Health Day reports.
The takeaway: It seems we cannot be too cautious right now. If you are expecting, or plan to be in the near future, it's wise to protect yourself against any possible means of infection, be it from a mosquito bite, intercourse, or oral sex. For more information on everything pregnant women need to know about Zika, click here.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.