Dallas reports first case of sexually transmitted Zika virus, CDC to issue guidance

Dallas County Health and Human Services says the city has reported its first case of sexually transmitted Zika virus. It’s the third known case linked to sexual fluids, and the first confirmed in the U.S. since 2011.

“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,” DCHHS director Zachary Thompson in a press announcement earlier today.

The first report of sexually transmitted Zika involved a scientist who had traveled to Senegal, caught the mosquito-borne virus and then returned to his home in Colorado. A few days later, his wife fell ill with virus, complaining of symptoms like “malaise, chills, extreme headache, hypersensitivity to light, and muscle pains,” according to Science Magazine. In 2013, doctors reported a French Polynesian man with Zika virus in his sperm. Both cases involved hematospermia, a condition where blood leaks into the semen, so it’s unknown if the virus actually persists in reproductive organs.

The statement from the county’s office said they had “received confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the first Zika virus case acquired through sexual transmission in Dallas County in 2016.” The CDC later told Reuters that their agency hadn’t investigated the Dallas case.

Later, the DCHHS clarified via Twitter:

The CDC has released the following in an official statement:

CDC has confirmed through laboratory testing the first case of U.S. Zika virus infection in a non-traveler in the continental United States. According to a Dallas County Health Department investigation, a person who recently traveled to an area with Zika virus transmission returned to the United States and developed Zika-like symptoms. The person later tested positive for Zika, along with their sexual partner, who had not traveled to the area. In this instance there was no risk to a developing fetus.

Both the DCHHS and the CDC recommend condoms as a way for sexual partners to protect themselves from spreading sexually transmitted infections.

The health agency plans to issue guidance on the prevention of sexual transmission of Zika virus, with a focus on the male sexual partners of women who are or who may be pregnant. Additionally, “people who have Zika virus infection can protect others by preventing additional mosquito bites,” the CDC said in a statement.

“Although unclear how frequently sexual transmission may occur, or the degree of risk of exposure through that route, if confirmed, this case suggests the potential to further guard against risk to pregnant women, or women intending to become pregnant,” Georgetown University infectious disease specialist Jesse L. Goodman said.

A Zika virus outbreak in the Americas has been associated with, but not definitively linked to, an increase of microcephaly, a condition that impairs the growth of the brain and head. The World Health Organization declared this situation an international public health emergency on Monday.

Support PBS NewsHour: