Update: CDC Announces Major Changes to Zika Protocol

Why their guidelines for pregnant women and those trying to conceive are changing. 

Zika 7.25.16 Roobcio/Shutterstock

Zika virus has been a major concern for pregnant women and those trying to conceive over the past few months. The CDC has warned us against traveling to areas where the virus is active, we've read heart-wrenching stories about the virus's tragic effects on newborns, and we've heard the illness can cause more health issues as babies grow. 

In light of new developments around the virus, the CDC has updated their guidelines for pregnant women. For one thing, we previously thought women only carried the virus in their blood for about a week after the onset of symptoms—now, the CDC suggests testing up to 14 days after possible exposure, as the virus appears to stick around longer when it infects pregnant women. By opening up the window for testing, the CDC hopes more cases of Zika will be properly diagnosed and addressed in pregnant women.

Another thing researchers have discovered about the Zika virus? The virus's ability to spread from males to females through sexual contact was discovered months ago—more recently, a possible case of female-to-male transmission was reported. Now, the CDC suggests using protection when having sex with a male or female who has traveled to an active Zika area—so, this applies to pregnant women who are sexually active with other women as well. On another note, males who have not traveled to one of these areas may carry the virus if they've been with someone who has been exposed to the virus—this is something you should keep in mind if you're with a non-monogamous partner. 

In other scary Zika-related news, researchers are investigating two possible cases in Florida that may indicate the virus's active presence in the United States. (Up until now, everyone who tested positive had either traveled abroad or contracted the vuris from someone who traveled.)

"Right now, we don't know very much," Michaeleen Doucleff of NPR said during a broadcast of Weekend Edition Sunday about the two cases in Florida that were possibly transmitted by mosquitoes locally.  "Last week, health officials in Florida announced both of these cases. One of them is in Miami, and the other is north of Miami in Broward County, which is where Fort Lauderdale is. And what the Florida Health Department has said is that they don't know how these two people caught Zika. They could have gotten it when they traveled to another country, or they could have gotten it here in the U.S. And that means two things—that they either caught it through sexual transmission or mosquitoes in the area have picked up the virus and started spreading it."

The Florida Department of Health is investigating these cases and the CDC has sent an epidemiologist to the state. Experts are considering the possibility that the virus may be spread by two types of mosquitos: While we previously thought Zika was transmitted only by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, scientists have raised the possibility that the "southern house mosquito," a species found in the Southern part of the United States, may carry the virus as well, according to NPR

We'll await firm conclusions about the virus's spread in the U.S.—but as of right now, we suggest you closely follow these updated guidelines from the CDC and speak to your doctor if there's any chance you may have contracted the virus.

For answers to more of your Zika questions, check out Parents magazine's interview with Dr. Siobhan Dolan, a medical adviser to the March of Dimes and an OB/GYN at Albert Einstein College of Medicine: