Health officials in Dallas have confirmed a case of the Zika virus being spread through sexual contact. The unidentified patient had sexual contact with a person who recently returned from a country where Zika infections are currently being reported.
In most cases, Zika is transmitted by mosquitoes. But during a field study in 2009, a team of medical researchers discovered the virus can also be sexually communicated. Today, Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) confirmed such a case, and it’s the first person-to-person transmission of the disease in the United States. The patient has not been identified.
It’s important to point out that there are still no reports of the virus being transmitted locally in the US by mosquitoes. But as this latest incident points out, imported cases of the virus are still transmissible through sexual contact. Travellers who have returned from a country where Zika is present are being asked to protect themselves from mosquito bites, and to practise safe sex.
“Now that we know Zika virus can be transmitted through sex, this increases our awareness campaign in educating the public about protecting themselves and others,” noted Zachary Thompson, DCHHS director. “Next to abstinence, condoms are the best prevention method against any sexually-transmitted infections.”
While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Infection confirmed the infection, it did not confirm the mode of transmission, as per this Reuters tweet.
Earlier this week, Zika was designated a health emergency by the WHO. The disease has been linked to abnormally small heads in newborn infants, a condition known as microcephaly. Expectant mothers are being asked to refrain from visiting countries in which Zika is present. It’s important to add that scientists have not yet confirmed a link between Zika and microcephaly, but they are urging caution.
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