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Zika and Sexual Transmission

Basics of Zika Virus and Sex

  • A man with Zika virus can pass it to his female or male sex partners.
    • In the cases CDC knows about, men had symptoms. Zika can be passed before symptoms start, while he has symptoms, and after his symptoms end.
    • Men without symptoms may be able to pass the virus to their sex partners, but CDC doesn’t have reports of this.
    • In the cases CDC knows about, the men had vaginal or anal sex without a condom.
    • In some of the cases CDC knows about, the men also had oral sex (mouth to penis) without a condom.
  • Zika virus can stay in semen longer than in blood, but we don’t know exactly how long Zika stays in semen.

Basic Prevention

  • Condoms can reduce the chance of getting Zika from sex if used correctly from start to finish, every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral (mouth-to-penis) sex.
  • Not having sex can eliminate your risk of getting Zika from sex.

Fast Facts

  • A man with Zika virus can pass it to his female or male sex partners. 
  • Using condoms or delaying sex can reduce the risk of getting Zika from sex. 
  • The length of time to consider using condoms or delaying sex depends on your situation and concerns.

What We Do Not Know

There are some things we still do not know about Zika and sex.

  • We don’t know if men with Zika who never develop symptoms have the virus in their semen or if they can pass Zika through sex.
  • We don’t know if Zika can be passed during oral sex (mouth-to-penis); however, because Zika virus is in the semen of infected men, Zika may be passed during oral (mouth-to-penis) sex.
  • We don’t know if a woman with Zika can pass the virus to her sex partners.
  • We don’t know if Zika can be passed through vaginal fluids during vaginal or oral (mouth to vagina) sex.
  • We don’t know if Zika can be passed through saliva during deep, open-mouth kissing.

CDC and other public health partners continue to study Zika virus and how it is spread and will share newinformation as it becomes available.

How to Prevent Sexual Transmission of Zika

Couples Who Are Pregnant

Pregnant couples with male partners who live in or travel to areas with Zika should take steps to protect their pregnancy. 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.

Because Zika can cause birth defects, couples should take steps to prevent infection during the pregnancy. Couples should

  • Use a condom every time they have sex or not have sex during the pregnancy. To be effective, condoms must be used correctly from start to finish, every time you have sex. This includes vaginal, anal, and oral (mouth-to-penis) sex.
  • Take steps to prevent mosquito bites while in an area with Zika. This protects the couple and prevents further spread of the virus.
  • Even if they do not feel sick, travelers returning to the United States from an area with Zika should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks so they do not pass Zika to uninfected mosquitoes.

Not having sex can eliminate the risk of passing Zika during a pregnancy.

Pregnant couples who are concerned that the male partner may have or had Zika should tell their healthcare provider immediately about:

  • His travel history
  • How long he stayed
  • If he took steps to prevent mosquito bites
  • If they had sex without a condom

Couples Trying to Become Pregnant

Men or women who live in or travel to an area with Zika who are concerned about trying to get pregnant should talk to their healthcare provider. Learn more here.

Others Concerned About the Sexual Transmission of Zika

Anyone concerned about the sexual transmission of Zika and not concerned about pregnancy can consider using a condom every time they have vaginal, anal, and oral (mouth-to-penis) sex or not have sex. To be effective, condoms must be used correctly from start to finish, every time during sex.

For couples with a male partner who has traveled to an area with Zika

  • If the male partner has been diagnosed with Zika or has (or had) symptoms, the couple should consider using condoms or not having sex for at least 6 months after symptoms begin.
  • If the male partner does not developed symptoms, the couple should consider using condoms or not having sex for at least 8 weeks after the man returns.

For couples with a male partner living in an area with Zika

  • If the male partner has been diagnosed with Zika or has (or had) symptoms, the couple should consider using condoms or not having sex for at least 6 months after symptoms begin.
  • If the male partner has never developed symptoms, the couple should consider using condoms or not having sex while there is Zika in the area.

For couples with a female partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika

  • It is not known if a woman can pass Zika to her sex partners.
  • Couples can also consider using condoms or not having sex.

Those considering these options should weigh the personal risks and benefits, including

  • The mild nature of the illness for many people*
  • Plans for pregnancy (if appropriate)
  • Access to condoms and other contraception
  • Desire for intimacy, including willingness to use condoms or not have sex
  • Ability to use condoms or not have sex

*In many cases, Zika does not cause any symptoms or causes only mild symptoms lasting several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.

Sexual Transmission and Testing

  • 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 sex should be tested if either she or her male partner develops symptoms of Zika.
  • Testing blood, semen, or urine is not recommended to determine how likely someone is to pass Zika virus through sex.
  • Because Zika virus can stay in semen longer than in blood, a man might have a negative blood or urine test but still have Zika virus in their semen. 

We have a limited understanding of how to interpret the results of semen tests. Studies are underway to better understand this issue. As we learn more and as tests improve, semen tests may become more helpful for determining the risk of people with Zika passing it through sex.

Additional Resources

	Zika and Sex: Information for men with pregnant partners living in areas with Zika infographic thumbnail

Zika and Sex: Information for men with pregnant partners living in areas with Zika

	Zika and Sex: Information for Pregnant Women living in Areas with Zika factsheet thumbnail

Zika and Sex: Information for pregnant women living in areas with Zika

	Infographic: Pregnant and living in an area with Zika?

Pregnant and living in an area with Zika?

	Infographic thumbnail: Pregnant? Read this before you travel.

Pregnant? Read this before you travel

	Zika and sexual transmission - What we know and what we dont know factsheet thumbnail

Zika and Sexual Transmisssion: What we know and what we don’t know

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