Men who live or have visited Zika-affected areas are strongly discouraged from unprotected sex of any kind. The reason for this is that, according to recent studies, the virus can persist in semen for up to half a year.
On September 6th, 2016, WHO stood firm on its position on reducing the spread of Zika virus, urging everyone coming from the affected regions to have protected sex for at least six months. The announcement followed the research that indicated that sexual transmission is very possible, irrespective of whether people are showing symptoms of the virus or not.
Earlier in June, WHO recommended that men and women should avoid sex or have safe sex for at least eight weeks after they have visited the area affected by the virus. However, another research conducted in Maryland later revealed that a man, who was infected with Zika in the Dominican Republic and didn’t manifest any symptoms, transmitted the virus to his partner via sexual intercourse a few months after he got infected himself.
The WHO affirmed that more research is yet to be conducted to investigate how long the virus lasts in semen in infected men. Meanwhile, the recommended period is estimated as 6 months. People having visited areas affected by Zika should get full range of contraception alternatives to prevent spreading the virus and avoid conceiving since the virus is particularly dangerous for a fetus. It often causes defects called microcephaly. Besides, Zika virus can be responsible for Guillain-Barre syndrome, a paralyzing neurological disorder.
Basically, Zika is a mosquito-transmitted virus which causes no symptoms in four out of five of the adults infected by the virus. However, if an expecting woman is infected, she faces a much higher risk of having a baby with head and brain defects. According to WHO, a third of children infected in the uterus are born with either inflammation of the optic nerve, retinal damage or blindness.
In adults, Zika can cause conjunctivitis, uveitis (inflammation of part of the eye wall) and permanent vision loss. The study also found that people could get infected by getting into contact with contaminated tears since the virus can survive in the eyes for seven days. What is unclear though is how the virus gets into the eyes, but medical experts suggest that it might cross the blood-retina barrier which separates the eye ball.