Zika shades spring break romance

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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State and federal health officials are warning spring-breakers to use condoms or abstain from sex to prevent spread of Zika.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Zika is perhaps the newest threat to the annual spring break right of passage that has become synonymous with heavy drinking and casual sex — one of two ways the mosquito-borne virus can be transmitted from person to person.

As a result, state and federal health agencies are warning spring-breakers to pack condoms or abstain from having sex to avoid Zika, which can cause a series of birth defects, including microcephaly — a rare neurological condition in which an infant’s head is significantly smaller than the heads of other children.

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Pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant have been advised to just forget about spring break.

“Pregnant women should not travel to Zika-affected areas because a Zika infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects,” said Sietske de Fijter, state epidemiologist at the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).

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Zika has spread to about 62 countries and territories that include popular spring break destinations, such as Mexico, the Bahamas and Puerto Rico, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Domestic Zika transmission has also been reported in the continental United States, including in Florida — perhaps the king of spring break festivities.

Ohio had 94 confirmed cases of Zika acquired outside the state during travel last year, and one case of domestic sexual transmission, according to ODH, which has reported two cases of travel-associated Zika transmission so far this year.

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All toll, there have been 5,139 travel-associated Zika virus cases reported in the United States since January 2015.

Zika is spread primarily by the bite of infected mosquitoes found mainly in the tropics and southern U.S. Symptoms include mild fever, rash, joint paid and headache.

However, “Zika can be passed through sex, even if the infected person does not have symptoms at the time,” according to the CDC, which warned the risk of sexually transmitted Zika can continue for weeks after a traveler’s — or reveler’s — return home.

Men should consider using condoms or avoid sex for at least six months after travel, and women should do the same for at least eight weeks, according to the CDC, which is currently studying how long Zika stays in the semen and vaginal fluids of people who have Zika.

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