We have received a number of questions at AskUs@marchofdimes.org asking why men need to be concerned about Zika.
The quick answer is because Zika can be sexually transmitted.
Zika infection usually stays in your blood for a few days to a week, but it has been found in an infected man’s semen more than 3 months after symptoms started. Semen contains sperm, which is what fertilizes an egg to get a woman pregnant. We don’t know how long Zika stays in a woman’s vaginal fluid or genital tract. If a man is infected with Zika and has sex with a pregnant woman, he can pass the virus to her and then it is possible for her to pass it to her unborn baby.
How can a man prevent a Zika infection?
- Avoid travel to Zika-affected areas. Men whose partners may be pregnant or trying to conceive, should avoid travel to a Zika-affected area unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Prevent mosquito bites. If a man does travel to a Zika-affected area, he should avoid mosquito bites during the trip. Continue to use insect repellant for at least 3 weeks after return, to help prevent Zika from spreading to others.
- Use a condom. When he returns from his trip, it is important to use a condom every time he has sex to prevent passing Zika to his partner. The length of time that you should use condoms depends on your personal situation and concerns. Talk to your provider.
What if a man thinks he may have been infected with Zika?
- Recognize the symptoms. Illness usually begin 2 to 7 days after you’ve been exposed to the virus. You can be sick with Zika for several days to a week. Signs and symptoms include:
- Fever (You may or may not have a fever if you have Zika.)
- Joint or muscle pain
- Pink eye (also called conjunctivitis) or pain behind the eyes
- Throwing up
- Most people who have Zika don’t feel sick or have symptoms. If you think you may have Zika, talk to your health care provider. You can find out if you have Zika with a blood or urine test.
- If you have Zika, or THINK you may have Zika, be careful not to infect your partner. Use condoms.
What can you do if you’re planning to get pregnant?
- If a man has been tested for and has Zika, wait at least 6 months after his first sign or symptom of Zika before trying to get pregnant.
- If a woman has been tested for and has Zika, wait at least 8 weeks from her first sign or symptom before trying to get pregnant.
- If you or your partner may have Zika but neither of you have signs or symptoms and neither of you has been tested, wait at least 8 weeks from when you think you may have been exposed to Zika before trying to get pregnant.
The CDC recommends that you wait this long to be sure you and your partner aren’t infected with Zika when you try to get pregnant.
See our article for more details about the Zika virus, including how to stay safe.
Have questions? Send them to our Health Education Specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.