New guidelines issued against Zika virus for those trying to conceive

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DENVER -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued new guidelines to help prevent sexual transmission of the Zika virus, and it could have big implications for couples who are trying to have a baby and recently traveled to Latin America.

Although the virus isn’t being actively transmitted by mosquitoes in the United States, the CDC is offering new guidance to prevent sexual transmission and hopefully protect women before conception.

There are 273 confirmed cases of the Zika virus in the United States, according to the CDC. Nineteen of those cases involve pregnant women. Six cases were sexually transmitted.

"The CDC has become very concerned that this could be very risky for pregnant women," said Edwin Asturias, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Colorado School of Public Health.

According to the CDC, women diagnosed with Zika should wait at least eight weeks after symptoms appear before trying to get pregnant. For men with a Zika diagnosis or symptoms, the CDC suggests waiting six months before having unprotected sex.

"The reason it is longer for men is that we know the virus lives in the sperm and it can be there for a longer time than in women," Asturias said.

Even if you show no symptoms of the virus, the CDC guidelines suggest men and women who travel to countries with active transmission , including the Caribbean, wait eight weeks before trying to conceive.

"We have to remember that most infections with Zika have no symptoms," Asturias said.

Couples hoping to conceive can request a Zika blood test upon returning from a trip, but Asturias said there is a backlog and results could take a month or more before ruling it out. In the meantime, he said it’s best to stick with the guidelines instead of trying to conceive.

"It's a long period, but you've got to remember that this virus can cause a lot of serious damage in a baby," Asturias said. "Just be extremely secure that that beautiful baby that you want to have is going to be free of any complications."

According to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, there were two confirmed cases of the Zika virus in the state earlier this month. Both individuals had traveled to countries with active transmission and both have recovered.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Larry Wolk said more cases likely will be seen as the virus continues to spread.

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