Future mothers hoping to use donated semen might want to think twice before using any samples from the Miami-Dade Country area of Florida. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning that sperm from as far back as June 2016 may be infected with the Zika virus. Damn those mosquitoes.
Fortunately, there is no hard evidence of Zika in any of the donated sperm, or that it has been passed to any newborn babies, but the warning issued by the CDC insisted on caution. Essentially, there were some cases of the virus in Florida where the source of the infection could not be confirmed.
As Zika can stay alive and present in semen for up to six months, despite the samples being frozen, the CDC has concluded "there is a small potential risk of Zika virus transmission associated with exposure to semen from male residents in the Florida tri-county area."
Spread by a bite from the Aedes aegypti mosquito, most Zika infections produce no symptoms or are mild and produce flu-like symptoms of fever, rash, and body aches that resolves within a few days. Pregnant women, though, are at a big risk when it comes to Zika; Scientists estimate that 11% of women infected with Zika during their first trimester of pregnancy will have a baby with microcephaly—a severely small head, less than 5% of the size of a normal baby's head. Usually, the baby's brain is also abnormally smaller.
According to the New York Times, Florida, home of endless mosquitoes, has seen over 280 cases of locally transmitted Zika. Thirty-eight cases in Florida have been found with an unknown infection source, which has caused the concern for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC.
Although the risk is reportedly small, it is still a large risk to take for a pregnant mother and unborn child. Unfortunately, there is no licensed and definitive test that can detect Zika in semen.
As such, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Dr. Peter W. Marks, suggested the following at a news briefing on Monday:
[I]f you're a woman who is considering using donated semen samples that have been collected during this period of time, you need to have a conversation with your provider about potential benefits and risks of using it.