The first case of sexually transmitted Zika virus in the U.S. has been confirmed
News of the Zika virus has been spreading like wildfire, terrifying pregnant women everywhere. The virus was first thought to be only transmitted by mosquitos, showing few symptoms in adults but tied to microcephaly in infants. Microcephaly is a rare neurological condition in which an infant’s brain and head are underdeveloped. It can lead to serious complications and even death.
The virus came on everyone’s radar in December, when the disturbing news that Brazil had started warning women not to get pregnant emerged. At that point, 2,400 cases had been reported. Shortly after, more and more disturbing stories began to surface, culminating in an announcement last week from the World Health Organization (WHO) that the virus is likely to move “across all of the Americas.” This week, the WHO declared the Zika virus a “global health emergency.” Just yesterday, there was news out of Texas that the first sexually transmitted “locally acquired” case had been discovered.
“Dallas County Health and Human Services received confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the first Zika virus case acquired through sexual transmission in Dallas County in 2016,” a statement from the DCHHS reads. “The patient was infected with the virus after having sexual contact with an ill individual who returned from a country where Zika virus is present. For medical confidentiality and personal privacy reasons, DCHHS does not provide additional identifying information.”
“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,” said Zachary Thompson, DCHHS director. “Next to abstinence, condoms are the best prevention method against any sexually-transmitted infections.”
The most common symptoms of of Zika virus in adults are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week.
CDC Director Tom Frieden told CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta: “There have been isolated cases of spread through blood transfusion or sexual contact and that’s not very surprising. The virus is in the blood for about a week. How long it would remain in the semen is something that needs to be studied and we’re working on that now.”
So in a matter of months we’ve gone from believing the disease is only something people in warmer climates need to worry about to realizing that the disease is spreading to many countries and is now confirmed to also be sexually transmitted. It’s clear that many people are becoming alarmed — especially pregnant women who fear their unborn children could be affected.