Dear Dr. Roach: My son and his new wife went on a dream honeymoon that has since turned into a nightmare. They went to Costa Rica and of course were bitten by mosquitoes. Upon returning home, they were told about the Zika virus. One person told them to wait six months before trying to have a baby; another source said to wait two years. They are in their mid-30s and want to have a baby. What do you know about this scary virus?
A: Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitos and is present in many areas of the Americas, Caribbean and Pacific. There has been an ongoing outbreak over the past few years. Zika is related to yellow fever, dengue and West Nile virus. One major concern about Zika is that it can cause neurological complications, sometimes severe, in babies born to women who were infected during pregnancy. Also, Zika may temporarily affect fertility in infected men. Zika can be transmitted sexually.
Couples who are planning pregnancy should avoid areas where Zika transmission occurs (see https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-information). For couples who have been exposed or who might have been infected, the most conservative recommendation I have read is six months. This is based on a finding of Zika RNA in men up to 188 days after having symptoms of Zika, even though no sexually transmitted cases have been reported more than six weeks after the man had symptoms of Zika (men and women may also transmit Zika after an illness without recognized symptoms). Given how severe the infection can be to the developing fetus, I think six months is the right amount of time, but two years is unnecessary.
Dr. Keith Roach writes for North America Syndicate. Send letters to 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.