Dr Geetha Venkat, Director of the Harley Street Fertility Clinic, is advising all athletes and spectators travelling to the Rio Olympics and who are planning on trying for a baby in the near future to take extra precautions against the Zika Virus by either freezing their sperm or eggs. This advice follows the high-profile admission by track and field athlete Greg Rutherford, that he has “had his sperm frozen, as it’s another thing he didn’t want to chance”. Cyclist Tejay van Garderen and golfers Vijay Singh and Marc Leishman had already announced that they will not compete at the August Games because of the virus.
Dr Venkat comments; “For those men and women planning on trying for a baby in the near future, freezing sperm or eggs ahead of travel to Zika ‘hot-spots’, such as Rio, is the best way of avoiding contamination by the mosquito-borne virus which is linked to serious birth defects and has been declared a global public health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO).”
More than 100 leading scientists have called on WHO to examine the risks of staging the Olympics in the Brazilian capital with a view to moving or postponing the Games.
Following contamination, a man or woman will have the virus in his/her bloodstream for one to two weeks after infection. The virus circulates in the body through various organs where it can be passed-on for another one to two weeks. It is still unclear how long the Zika virus can be passed-on via semen, but the current recommendation is that for men who have travelled to areas containing the Zika virus, they should abstain from intercourse or use condoms regularly to avoid exposing a pregnant partner or a partner who may become pregnant.
If the male partner has had symptoms, this practice should be continued for at least six months; in the absence of symptoms, the time period for abstinence is a minimum of eight weeks. Couples in which the female partner is pregnant but the male partner has travelled to a Zika-affected area should either abstain from any type of intercourse or use condoms correctly and regularly with all sexual activity throughout pregnancy.