Advertisement

Can Zika virus be transmitted sexually?

Rabiya Suleman, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)
Zika virus can be transmitted sexually from an infected male to his female or male partner during vaginal, oral or anal sex without a condom. A man who has Zika can pass it to his pregnant partner during sex, even if he does not have symptoms at the time or his symptoms have gone away. Pregnant couples with male partners who live in or travel to areas with Zika should take steps to protect their pregnancy. They should use a condom when they have sex, or abstain from intercourse during the pregnancy. Couples should also take steps to prevent mosquito bites. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends Zika virus testing for people who may have been exposed to Zika through sex and who have Zika symptoms. A pregnant woman with possible exposure to Zika virus from sexual activity should be tested if either she or her male partner develops any symptoms of Zika.
The Zika virus can be transmitted sexually. In fact, the first case of local transmission in the continental United States occurred this way. A person in Texas became infected after having sexual contact with someone who had recently returned from a country where a Zika outbreak was happening. Before that, though, only a few suspected cases of sexual transmission had been reported. It isn't yet known how commonly Zika is spread this way. Male-to-female or male-to-male transmission seems to be the greatest risk, but male-to-male and female-to-male transmission have also been reported. 

People who show signs of Zika virus--which can include fever, rash and joint pain--should see a doctor if they have traveled to an area where a Zika outbreak is occurring, or if they have had sexual contact with someone who has been there recently. Sexual partners who may have been exposed to Zika can protect each other by using condoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) especially recommends this precaution for pregnant women whose partners may have been exposed to Zika recently. 

Men who have traveled to a region where Zika is spreading should abstain from unprotected sex and not try to conceive with their partners for at least 6 months, whether or not they had symptoms of Zika infection. Women should do the same for at least 8 weeks after possible exposure. 

Continue Learning about Zika Virus

What Men Should Know About Zika
What Men Should Know About Zika
While women of childbearing age rightfully worry about getting Zika—the mosquito-borne virus linked to microcephaly and other severe birth defects—man...
Read More
Should I delay my pregnancy because of the Zika virus?
Carrie L. Sloan, MDCarrie L. Sloan, MD
You do not have to delay your pregnancy because of the Zika virus if you live in the United States. ...
More Answers
How can I cancel my travel plans if I'm concerned about the Zika virus?
Carrie L. Sloan, MDCarrie L. Sloan, MD
If you are worried about the Zika virus and want to cancel your travel plans, ask your airline or ho...
More Answers
What Are the Symptoms of Zika Virus?
What Are the Symptoms of Zika Virus?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.