A man in Texas, United States, has been infected with the Zika virus, proving that the virus can likely be transmitted through sex, a day after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared an international public health emergency on the virus.
This is not the first proof though as in 2008, a Colorado researcher who picked up the virus in Africa reportedly infected his wife back home, and Zika was found in one man’s semen in Tahiti.
The unidentified person hadn’t travelled abroad but had sex with a person who returned from Venezuela and contracted Zika, Dallas county health officials said on Tuesday. The US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) issued a statement saying lab tests confirmed the non-traveller was infected with Zika.
The virus, which may be connected to thousands of birth defects in the Americas, is primarily spread through mosquito bites, but investigators had been exploring the possibility it could be sexually transmitted.
“It’s very rare but this is not new,” Zachary Thompson, director of the Dallas County Health and Human Services, told WFAA-TV in Dallas. “We always looked at the point that this could be transmitted sexually.”
The CDC said it will issue guidance in the coming days on prevention of sexual transmission of the Zika virus, focusing on the male sexual partners of women who are or may be pregnant.
The virus is spreading rapidly in the Americas, and WHO officials expressed concern that it could hit Africa and Asia as well. Zika had been thought to be spread by the bite of mosquitoes of the Aedes genus, so sexual contact as a mode of transmission would be a potentially alarming development.