The Zika virus, a mosquito-borne virus that is believed to be able to cause babies to be born with abnormally small heads and neurological problems if it infects a pregnant woman, has become a public health emergency and resulted in thousands of birth defects in parts of Latin America. The CDC just announced that the Zika virus has been discovered in a patient in Dallas who reportedly had not traveled, but who reportedly was infected by a sexual partner.
According to the BBC, the Zika virus has been linked to 4,000 cases of microcephaly in Brazil since October.
According to CNN, Dallas County Health and Human Services says the Zika virus has been diagnosed in a patient who had not traveled outside the U.S., but the patient’s partner had recently been to Venezuela and been infected by a mosquito there. This is reportedly the first case of a person being infected by the Zika virus while in North America, though other U.S. patients had been infected while traveling.
“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, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.
This is distressing news because it means the Zika virus has at least two ways of being transmitted. The World Health Organization yesterday declared the Zika virus outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern. There is no vaccine or medication for the Zika virus.
The World Health Organization says that for the moment the important protective measures against the Zika virus are the control of mosquito populations and the prevention of mosquito bites, especially in pregnant women.
“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,” a CDC spokesperson said to CNN. The most recent news has the CDC also recommending that individuals use condoms and try to avoid exposure to the semen of a person who has been infected with the Zika virus.