Science

UK Records First Case Of Sexually Transmitted Zika Virus

By Christie Abagon , Dec 03, 2016 02:44 PM EST

Zika is normally transmitted through a bite from an infected mosquito.  However, in rare cases, you can also get Zika from your sex partner.  This is what happened to a woman in the UK.  Although the mosquito type which carries the virus is not found in the UK, the woman's partner recently travelled to a Zika-infected area, and when they had sex, the virus was passed on to her. 

Use Condoms For Six Months After Travelling, Doctors Say

Pregnant women face a high risk for being infected.  Zika virus is known to cause microcephaly, a birth defect giving babies abnormally small heads.  If your spouse came from a trip from a region which is affected by Zika, it is safe to have them wear condoms during sex for about 6 months.  

Public Health England's Zika incident director, Prof Dilys Morgan, said: "PHE advises all male travellers regardless of symptoms to avoid conception and use condoms and other barrier methods during sexual activities for six months following return from a Zika high- or moderate-risk country."

Sexually Transmitted Zika Is Very Rare

The news about a sexually transmitted Zika case in the UK did not come as a shock, health officials say.  "News that one case of sexual transmission of Zika has occurred in the UK is not unexpected.  About 60 cases of sexual transmission of Zika have been reported worldwide, so we think this is quite rare.  Discovering just how common it is for the virus to be passed during sex by a man or woman is a key focus for Zika researchers," Prof Jimmy Whitworth from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said.

Just last month, the World Health Organization said Zika is no longer a global health emergency.  Dr. Peter Salama, executive director of the W.H.O.'s health emergencies program, said: "We are not downgrading the importance of Zika.  We are sending the message that Zika is here to stay and the W.H.O. response is here to stay."

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