Infected women can give men Zika through sex, CDC says

This is one of two types mosquitos that cause the Zika virus
This is one of two types mosquitos that cause the Zika virus

It appears now that men aren’t the only ones who can transmit the Zika virus through sex.

The first case of female to male transmission of the Zika virus has been reported in New York City, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control announced Friday. To this point all other recorded cases of sexual transmissions of the mosquito-borne virus have been from men to their sexual partners.

The finding suggests that sexual conveyance of the disease could be more of a threat than previously thought.

The case came to light after a woman in her 20s visited an area in the midst of an active Zika outbreak and returned home. The agency would not say which country the woman had visited. Even though most people who get Zika have no symptoms of the disease, the woman was among the minority who exhibited telltale signs of infection. It began with a headache and abdominal pain on the day she got back to New York City. That same day she had unprotected vaginal sex with her male partner. The next day, her symptoms became more acute: fever, headache, joint and muscle pain, rash, fatigue. By the third day of symptoms she went to her doctor and described her travel history and symptoms. Her doctor ordered a Zika test of her blood and urine. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene tested the samples that same day. Both were positive for Zika.

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Then, within a week of her return, her male partner also in his 20s came down with many of the same symptoms including conjunctivitis. He went to the same doctor and told the doctor he hadn’t traveled, been bitten by a mosquito or had other recent sexual partners. His urine test was positive for Zika, though not the blood test. The CDC confirmed the results.

Until this point the CDC’s Zika prevention advice has been aimed at sexually active men who travel to Zika outbreak regions and pregnant women or women who want to soon get pregnant. Now, in light of the New York City case, that prevention message becomes more broad. No one who travels to an area of outbreak, which includes just about all of South and Central America and the Caribbean, should have unprotected sex of any kind upon returning home or should abstain for six weeks if they have no symptoms. If they have symptoms, they should practice safe-sex for at least two months.

Zika causes a host of birth defects, especially microcephaly, a condition that stunts the growth of a fetus’s brain and the skull to collapse on it. The virus also causes miscarriages and still births.