The Zika virus, which causes birth defects, can be transmitted through the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, and it can also be through sex.
So the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a warning for men in Palm Beach County and two others not to donate sperm because of the risk of spreading the disease, according to a story by The Associated Press.
The guidance applies also to Broward and Miami-Dade counties, the latter being the only place in Florida in which there’s proof the virus was spread by mosquitoes. Most cases diagnosed in Florida have been of those who contracted the disease by traveling to infected zones in the Caribbean or South America.
“When semen is donated, it can be stored frozen for periods of time. It does not necessarily inactivate Zika, so it could be stored in tissue banks, used subsequently, and people should be made aware,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, told CNN.
He said women “might want to use these donations from other sources.”
The CDC advisory is mostly precautionary. There have been no cases of pregnant women being infected with Zika through a sperm donation. The risk is considered low but the consequences are severe. Infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects
“Now we understand, more than we did months ago, is that evidence of the Zika virus is present in semen for up to three months after a man is infected and people may not have accurately recalled potential exposure (to the virus) especially if in a local area,” said Dr. Matthew Kuehnert, who is part of the CDC Office of Blood, Organ, and Other Tissue Safety.
He was quoted in the story on the sperm alert for CNN.
A spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates sperm donations, said the 12 donor banks in South Florida should consider the CDC’s new advice discouraging donations from men in the three South Florida counties.