A patient in Dallas appears to have been infected with the Zika virus after having intercourse with a person who contracted the virus in Venezuela, officials announced Tuesday.
CDC has confirmed the Dallas infection, although it has not independently investigated how the virus was transmitted.
Public health officials say that Zika is primarily transmitted by mosquitos, although sexual transmission of the virus had been reported in at least two prior cases, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says the likelihood that the Texas Zika virus case was sexually transmitted “adds a new dimension” to the outbreak. Experts tell the Times that addressing the outbreak may involve safe-sex education along with mosquito control.
William Schaffner, chief of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical School, says it is likely that sexual transmission of Zika virus is rare. “Mosquito transmission is the highway,” he explains, “whereas sexual transmission is the byway.”
In addition, Fauci notes that the effect of Zika potentially spreading through sex hinges on several important questions, such as how long Zika remains in semen.
In a statement following Tuesday’s announcement, CDC said that it does “not have definitive information on the infectious time period, and will provide more guidance for individuals and clinicians as we learn more.” In the meantime, CDC advised that:
• Pregnant women avoid contact with semen from men exposed to the Zika virus; and
• Men who travelled to areas with the Zika virus use condoms.
Brazil reported the first case of Zika virus in the current outbreak in May 2015, and the virus has since spread to more than 20 countries and territories. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that the virus will spread to every country in the Americas except Canada and Chile, which do not contain the Aedes mosquitos that transmit the virus.
While most people infected with Zika develop no symptoms, the spread of the virus has coincided with a massive increase in the number of women giving birth to infants with microcephaly, a neurological disorder characterized by an abnormally small head and potentially fatal developmental issues.
On Monday, WHO declared the neurological disorders linked to the Zika virus a “public health emergency of international concern,” a rare classification that has been invoked only three other times-most recently in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
The American Red Cross on Tuesday also requested that donors who have visited area with active Zika transmission wait 28 days before donating blood