The Very Important Reason The CDC Is Collecting Semen

Photographed by Kate Anglestein.
We know now that the Zika virus can be transmitted sexually, but researchers still aren't sure how long that's possible after infection. According to CNN, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is turning to current Zika patients for help: by asking men with a history of Zika to donate their semen in the name of medical research.

CNN reports that, so far, 40 men with Zika have volunteered to participate. They've signed on to send in about a dozen donations every other week for six months after their initial infection. The CDC's goal is to acquire 210 more volunteers.

So far, there have been about 1300 reported cases of Zika in the U.S., including 346 infections among pregnant women, according to the latest numbers from the CDC. Zika virus, which is spread mostly by mosquitoes, can cause fever, rash, and joint pain in some people, but for most it is a mild illness. However, the worrying part of it is the risk of birth defects for babies born to women who were infected while pregnant.

The CDC currently advises men who have experienced symptoms of Zika to use condoms or abstain from sex entirely for up to six months. (It is unclear if infected women can spread the virus via sex.) But, these guidelines are based on a very small study. Hopefully, this new research should shed some needed light on the risks of transmission and how long they last.

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