Recently, the CDC and FDA have issued statements regarding sperm donations for three counties in South Florida. Since June 15th 2016, there has been cause for concern that sperm donated in Broward, Miami Dade, and Palm Beach counties is at risk for being infected with Zika virus. The concern for these specific counties arose out of the commonality of local travel between these areas which have been considered “areas of active transmission”. Though these donations can be frozen and stored this does not mean that the virus becomes inactive. For individuals seeking donations from sperm banks in these locations, officials recommend looking elsewhere for the time being.
The CDC provided the following list regarding the possible reasons that there is an increased risk of Zika exposure and its association with semen:
- Local transmission of Zika virus in Miami-Dade County
- Evidence confirming that Zika can persist in semen longer than in other body fluids
- The ongoing concern about Zika virus infections that go undiagnosed because people have mild or no symptoms
- Challenges defining the source and location of Zika virus exposure
- The regular movement of people between and within the three counties
As many people are familiar with Zika virus now, we know that it is most dangerous for pregnant women as the virus can be transmitted to the child causing neurological damage and possibly miscarriage. Major concern for this issue comes from the fact that many people, including donors, may not realize they were infected as roughly 80% of people who have the virus do not show symptoms. However, as of yet, the CDC has not reported the virus being transmitted through sperm donation, though it is important to note that Zika is present in semen for up to three months following infection. Presently, there is no admissible test to screen semen for the virus, but donors are asked travel history questions regarding travel or residence in areas affected by Zika. All tests are still being researched for accuracy and are not yet available.