Wait, So Can Coronavirus Be Spread Through Sex?
A new study detected coronavirus in semen — here's what that means for your sex life.
For those wondering how to have safe sex during the coronavirus pandemic, the advice hasn't been too, uh, satisfying. “You are your safest sex partner," New York City Department of Health shared in a memo back in March. Cue all the masturbation tips.
In the weeks since, it's been crickets from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) when it comes to specific guidance on having sex in the era of coronavirus — beyond continuing to physically distance to prevent the spread of the disease. Now, thanks to a new study out of China, published last week, we know a bit more: Coronavirus can live in semen.
Back in January and February, doctors collected samples from 38 men who had been hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19. They detected the virus in the semen of six of the men — four who were at the height of their infections when the samples were collected, and two who had already recovered. This conflicts with a study published last month that found no evidence of coronavirus in the semen of recovering patients, leading scientists to conclude that how sick a man is when tested is significant.
To be super clear, more research is needed to answer the question of whether coronavirus can be sexually transmitted. The study authors note that they were limited by the small sample size and don't know how long the virus can survive in semen — or whether it can be spread to a partner through semen.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, for one, responded saying that the new study shouldn’t be cause for alarm. To be safe, they recommend avoiding sexual contact with men until they are 14 days without symptoms. Sounds like common sense.
As Planned Parenthood notes, "the best way to prevent COVID-19 is to avoid close, physical contact — including sex — with anyone who doesn’t live with you." When it comes to a sexual partner you live with, if both of you are feeling well, presenting no symptoms, practicing social distancing, and have had no known exposure to anyone with the virus, then getting intimate is more likely to be safe. (And, in fact, it's recommended to help strengthen your relationship during this stressful time.)
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Bottom line: While we still don't know whether COVID-19 can be spread through vaginal fluids or semen, we do know coronavirus can spread easily if you're within six feet and sharing saliva. So, if you're concerned you or a potential sexual partner may have COVID-19, it's best to keep your distance and avoid kissing, or any other sexual contact, until you're in the clear.
The coronavirus pandemic is unfolding in real-time, and guidelines change by the minute. We promise to give you the latest information at time of publishing, but please refer to the CDC and WHO for updates.