Zika Virus Update: First US Case Transmitted Through Sexual Contact

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Feb 03, 2016 05:30 AM EST

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Dallas County health officials announced that the first known Zika virus case in the country was sexually transmitted.

The Dallas County health officials issued a press release explaining that it is possible to acquire the Zika virus through sexual transmission. The infected patient had intercourse with an individual coming back from Venezuela where the outbreak is present.

"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," Dallas County Health and Human Services director Zachary Thomspon said. "Next to abstinence, condoms are the best prevention method against any sexually-transmitted infections."

However, the Texas Department of State Health Services was wary in issuing a statement saying that the mosquito-borne virus infection through sexual transmission is only "likely" in the case. The CDC has not yet looked into how the virus was transmitted. Reuters reports that the CDC has confirmed that this case is the first of its kind where it was locally acquired in the US.

CDC Director Tom Frieden told CNN that the case isn't so surprising as the virus remains in the blood of the infected fror a week.

"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," he told the outlet.

Additionally, the government agency will be issuing guidelines on Zika virus sexual transmission focusing on males with possibly pregnant female partners. While it won't be easy to do studies on how the virus is transmitted sexually, the best way form of protection is to use condoms during intimate intercourse and by avoiding getting bitten by mosquitoes.

"What we know is the vast majority of spread is going to be from mosquitoes," said Frieden. "The bottom line is mosquitoes are the real culprit here."

The Zika virus is linked to a significant rise of babies born with microcephaly, a condition where infants have abnormally small heads in Brazil and French Polynesia.

The Summer Olympic Games is set to be held in Brazil and in a news conference for the upcoming games, the Zika outbreak was discussed and how it could affect the participants and the activities.

"Athletes are not at risk," said the organizer's medical director Joao Grangeiro, as reported by New York Times. "We will have Summer Games, but for us it's winter time."

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