Texas Patient Is First to Contract Zika Virus in U.S. – and It Was Transmitted Through Sexual Contact
Health officials have confirmed the first case of Zika virus being contracted in the United States – and the disease was transmitted through sexual contact.
Dallas County Health and Human Services said the patient was infected after being sexually active with someone who had returned with the Zika virus from Venezuela.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the transmission. The patient has not been identified and no further information regarding the patient’s condition has been released.
“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,” Zachary Thompson, Dallas County health department director, said. “Next to abstinence, condoms are the best prevention method against any sexually-transmitted infections.”
The World Health Organization declared Zika virus “a public health emergency of international concern” on Monday. The rare declaration was spurred by growing concern that the Zika infection in pregnant women is linked to microcephaly a birth defect that causes small head and brain abnormalities.
The outbreak of Zika began in Brazil last May and has spread to more than 20 countries in Central and South America. The WHO has previously warned that the virus is “spreading explosively” in the Americas and that as many as 4 million people could be infected by the end of the year.
The virus is usually spread through Aedes mosquito bites, though researchers have been exploring the possibility of sexual transmission since a Colorado researcher caught the virus overseas and reportedly spread it to his wife back in the U.S. in 2008.
There is no specific medication available to treat the Zika virus and there is currently no vaccine. “The best approach is to avoid mosquito bites in affected areas,” Dr. Denise Jamieson, a medical officer with the CDC tells PEOPLE.
“Everybody should protect themselves against mosquitoes,” she continues. “Wear long sleeved clothing, use insect repellant which is safe during pregnancy, and in general avoiding mosquito bites.”