The first case of a sexually-transmitted Zika virus, the infectious disease spreading quickly across the Americas, has been confirmed by the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) in Dallas County, Texas.
Previously believed to only be transmitted through mosquito bites, Zika has already been labeled a “global emergency” by the World Health Organization (WHO) and has inspired governments to act quickly to direct funds toward eradicating the virus.
The virus, which first entered the Americas in 2014 through Brazil, has been linked to underdeveloped brains in newborn babies, which prompted some Latin American countries to recommend women hold off getting pregnant for at least two years. However, all of these countries offer little access to birth control and have strict laws about obtaining an abortion. With the new knowledge that Zika can be transmitted through sex, there may be additional pressure on governments of all sizes to ramp up access to contraceptives and reproductive health information.
Dallas County health officials said that a patient was infected after having sexual contact with a person who had recently traveled to a country where the virus 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,” said Zachary Thompson, Dallas County health director. “Next to abstinence, condoms are the best prevention method against any sexually-transmitted infections.”
There is currently no vaccine to avoid contracting the virus, which is undetectable in 80 percent of the people who are infected. Currently, the CDC recommends people “avoid mosquitoes” and steer clear of the countries currently battling the infection on a larger scale.