This is an Aedes aegypti mosquito.Credit: Institut Pasteur
First case of Zika virus contracted in US mainland, confirmed in Texas, is only second documented example of virus being passed through sexual contact
Zika has been sexually transmitted in Texas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. It is the first known case of the virus being locally acquired in the continental United States in the current outbreak.
The case, announced by Dallas County health officials, involved a patient who had sex with someone who had recently returned from Venezuela infected with the mosquito-borne virus.
The CDC also warned for the first time that pregnant women or those hoping to become pregnant should “consult with their healthcare professional if their partner has had exposure to Zika virus”.
“Based on what we know now, the best way to avoid Zika virus infection is to prevent mosquito bites AND to avoid exposure to semen from someone who has been exposed to Zika virus or has been ill from Zika virus infection,” the CDC wrote. It is unclear how long the virus may linger in men’s semen after virus symptoms subside.
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.
To date, only imported cases of Zika infection have been reported in America, with the exception of the US territory of Puerto Rico. Many virologists, however, expect at least some limited spread of the disease in US Gulf Coast states.
The virus was discovered in the Zika forest in Uganda in the 1940s. It was once incredibly rare, but became suddenly endemic in some regions of Africa, before spreading to southeast Asia, French Polynesia and most recently Latin America.