It was already known that the Zika virus could be passed from a man to a woman via sexual intercourse. What wasn’t clear until a recent case was whether the virus could be passed from a woman to a man.
A case has been documented in New York City of a woman in her 20s who returned from a country where the Zika virus is spreading. (The country wasn’t named.) Per an NPR report, she and her partner engaged in a single act of vaginal sex, without a condom, with a male partner (also in his 20s) on the same day that she returned.
Women can infect their sexual partners with the Zika virus as well https://t.co/WsmwZHenYi
— Mashable (@mashable) July 15, 2016
The woman and the man were not identified, and information on the case was released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, July 15. The woman had already experienced abdominal cramps and a headache when en route to NYC. The next day she developed fatigue, fever, rash, back pain, and swelling in the hands and feet. She started her period on the second day after returning, which she said was heavier than usual.
Three days after her return and worsening of the symptoms, the woman went to her primary care physician, and the tests confirmed the Zika infection. Seven days after intercourse, the woman’s partner developed a fever, rash, eye irritation, and pain in his joints. He, too, tested positive for Zika. The male partner had not traveled outside of the United States, and he had not been bitten by a mosquito. Both have since recovered, and the woman was not pregnant.
John Brooks, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC, weighed in on how the virus was transmitted, NPR also noted.
“The hypothesis is that this was transmitted sexually, and I think that’s probably a pretty good case. This is the first case that we’re aware of, anywhere.”
A major concern about the virus is pregnancy complications and microcephaly and other abnormalities in newborns. Because of the above-cited case, the CDC has altered its advice. It is now recommending that pregnant females whose partners have traveled to a place where the Zika virus is spreading should make sure condoms are used or abstain from sex for the duration of the pregnancy. The CDC also stated that pregnant women who have a female partner should take the same precautions. To date, no woman-to-woman sexual transmission has been reported. Male-to-male infection can occur.
— ABC News (@ABC) July 15, 2016
According to the L.A. Times, the CDC will update its advice for sexually active couples in which the woman is not pregnant. Current advice is that men who have traveled to countries where the Zika virus is prevalent should use a condom or not have sex for at least six months. If no symptoms are present, they should take similar precautions for a minimum of eight weeks.
The L.A. Times also noted that the World Health Organization reported that 11 countries, including the United States, have reported sexual transmission of the Zika virus. Fourteen, reportedly, acquired it from sex with travelers; this is among over 1,300 people in the 50 states and the District of Columbia who have been diagnosed. Others were infected with the virus while traveling to Latin America, the Caribbean, and other areas. Most were infected through mosquito bites, but this does not include those who live in the continental United States thus far.
It is unclear how the woman in the NYC case transmitted the virus to the man. Research done at the University of Wisconsin detected Zika virus in the vaginal fluid of female monkeys, which was found up to seven days after they were infected. Because the woman who was infected started her menses the day after intercourse with her male partner, it is possible that the virus was transmitted through microscopic blood particles.
[Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images]