CDC Updates Guidelines on Zika Virus for Health Care Providers

zika virus
zika virus
The CDC is encouraging health care providers to proactively test women who are pregnant or of reproductive age that may have been exposed to Zika virus.

The CDC has issued new interim guidance for the prevention of sexual transmission of Zika virus after the first Zika case in a non-traveler was confirmed by Dallas County Health and Human Services.

The organization has also released updated guidelines for health care providers who care for pregnant women or women of reproductive age with possible Zika virus exposure.

Global concern over the virus — which is primarily spread by mosquitoes — continues to grow, with travel advisories issued for many countries located in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Pacific Islands.  

Even more troublesome is the virus’s association with congenital microcephaly and other abnormalities of the brain and eye, including Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Recent clusters of the disorder in Brazil and other areas motivated the World Health Organization (WHO) to deem Zika virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern earlier this week. The WHO has asked that research into the etiology of these new clusters be intensified in order to determine whether there is a causative link to Zika virus and/or other factors.

The new guidelines to address possible sexual transmission of the virus urge pregnant women to discuss potential exposure to Zika with their male sex partners. Men with a pregnant sex partner who resides in or has traveled to an area with active Zika transmission are encouraged to use condoms or abstain from sexual activity for the duration of the pregnancy.

The updated guidelines for health care providers now recommend that pregnant women without symptoms who have traveled to areas of active Zika transmission be offered testing 2-12 weeks after returning from the active area.

Women who are pregnant and experiencing symptoms of Zika should be tested at the time of illness. Those who are pregnant but not experiencing symptoms should be tested at initiation of prenatal care, with follow-up testing recommended during the middle of the second trimester.

Health care providers treating women of reproductive age should discuss strategies to prevent unintended pregnancy in the context of potential risk of Zika virus transmission.

Local health officials shall determine whether or not to implement testing for pregnant women without symptoms based on local levels of Zika transmission. Currently, New York State is offering free Zika virus testing to pregnant travelers whether or not they have symptoms of the virus.

To read the full guidelines for health care providers, go here


  1. CDC press release. “CDC issues Interim Guidelines for Preventing Sexual Transmission of Zika Virus and Updated Interim Guidelines for Health Care Providers Caring for Pregnant Women and Women of Reproductive Age with Possible Zika Virus Exposure.” Published February 5, 2016.
  2. Oduyebo T, Petersen EE, Rasmussen SA, et al. Update: Interim Guidelines for Health Care Providers Caring for Pregnant Women and Women of Reproductive Age with Possible Zika Virus Exposure — United States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016; 65(Early Release):1–6. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6505e2er
  3. World Health Organization press release. “WHO statement on the first meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR 2005) Emergency Committee on Zika virus and observed increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations.” Published February 1, 2016.