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What women of childbearing age and men need to know about Zika virus

Mark Polhemus, MDMost people who become infected with the Zika virus have such mild symptoms, if any, that they aren‘t aware of the infection. The human body is able to get rid of the virus within a few months, says Mark Polhemus, MD, an infectious disease expert at Upstate Medical University who directs the Center for Global Health and Translational Science. Because the virus is linked to severe birth defects, women who are exposed to Zika are advised to wait at least eight weeks before becoming pregnant, so the virus is out of their bodies. Because the virus lives longer in semen, men are told to protect sexual partners from pregnancy for at least six months. Polhemus explains that Zika is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito but also has the ability to spread through sexual contact and from mother to unborn baby. He also notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's map includes Central New York among areas at risk for spread of the disease.