Zika virus is sexually transmitted – CDC confirms

Zika virus is sexually transmitted – CDC confirms

The Zika virus is spreading rapidly and poses a threat to as much as 63 percent of the U.S. population, according to one model. Doctors now say it can be spread not just by mosquitos but also through sexual contact.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday updated its Zika virus guidance for pregnant women, advising them to protect themselves if their male sexual partner has traveled to or lives in an area where Zika virus is circulating.

“Until we know more, if your male sexual partner has traveled to or lives in an area with active Zika virus transmission, you should abstain from sex or use condoms the right way every time you have vaginal, anal, and oral sex for the duration of the pregnancy,” the updated guidance says.

The update in recommendations comes one day after Dallas County, Texas, health officials, announced a case of the virus involving a patient who had sex with someone who had recently returned from Venezuela infected with the mosquito-borne virus. The CDC confirmed this as first known case of the virus being locally acquired in the continental United States in the current outbreak.

In a statement to CNN, the CDC said it confirmed the test results showing Zika present in the blood of a “nontraveler in the continental United States.” The agency stressed that there was no risk to a developing fetus in this instance.

On Tuesday, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta: “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.”

Frieden said that studies on sexual transmission are not easy studies to do, but the CDC is continuing to explore that avenue of transmission. “What we know is the vast majority of spread is going to be from mosquitoes,” Frieden said. “The bottom line is mosquitoes are the real culprit here.”

The CDC said it will provide more guidance as more information on sexual transmission is learned, but in the meantime, “Sexual partners can protect each other by using condoms to prevent spreading sexually transmitted infections. People who have Zika virus infection can protect others by preventing additional mosquito bites.”

Spokesman Gregory Hartl said the World Health Organization was aware of the Texas case but said, “we understand the case will raise concern but we really need to know a lot more not just about purported sexual transmission, but about any other kinds of transmission other than vector transmission.”

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