A new study from scientists at the University of Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis found extensive damage to the reproductive health of male mice infected with Zika.
Everything from low sperm count to less fertile sperm was showing up in male mice used in the study.
Scientists are now ramping up research to see how Zika could affect men.
“Kind of hits home that you really can’t take these emerging diseases for granted and you really have to be vigilant,” said Dr. Scott Needle, chief medical officer of the Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida.
“Men should take a closer look at it, too. Not just looking at it as a female issue or a female problem but also looking at it as a male problem,” said James Jones of Fort Myers.
“Definitely something that I’d be keeping an eye out for,” said Brandon Gaskin of Cape Coral.
Doctors studying Zika effects in mice have found decreased sperm production and low testosterone in male animals that are infected with or are just carriers of the virus.
“It’s pretty freaky. I didn’t know that but you know, it doesn’t surprise me. We’re learning new things about it daily now. If I have been bitten, that’s one of the bad things, you know, if it does deduct sperm count, that’s scary. That can really, you know, mess up somebody who is wanting to have a family,” Gaskin said.
“It’s pretty scary. Because we just don’t know the effects, not just the short-term effects but the long-term affects,” Jones said.
Physicians believe the study’s results could change how health agencies treat the virus.
“That there may be possibly a threat to men’s fertility as well, I think just reinforces the idea that you know it’s a virus that you have to take seriously,” Needle said.
Some men in Southwest Florida say educating yourself before planning trips could make a big difference.
“We don’t know too much about the Zika virus and how that is affecting some parts of South Florida. We need to educate individuals who do travel a lot,” Jones said.
Scientists who conducted the study’s research are traveling to other countries heavily impacted by Zika to track things like sperm count and testosterone levels in men.
They want to know for sure if what they’ve seen in the male mice is happening in humans.