Health

Can Zika Virus Be Spread Through Sex?

| by Zara Zhi
Zika Virus.Zika Virus.

Zika, the virus thought to cause a “head shrinking” birth defect in Brazilian babies, is spreading -- and it has already arrived in the U.S.

Now, scientists and health care workers are wondering how many different ways the Zika virus can be transmitted.

It has been established that bites from Aedes genus mosquitos, which spread other tropical diseases like dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever, are the main way of transmitting Zika.

But now, after two reports in a medical journal, there are worries the virus can be transmitted through sexual intercourse.

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One account says that Zika was detected in the semen of a Tahitian man.

The other study, published in 2011, reports that Brian Foy, an insect expert from Colorado State University, claims he passed the virus to his wife through sex.

Foy became infected with Zika while on a field trip to Senegal in 2008, where he and his associate were collecting mosquitos and frequently bitten.

Five days after coming home, Foy became ill and had symptoms of fatigue, puffy wrists, rashes, painful urination and blood in his semen. His wife developed similar symptoms after a few weeks, along with extreme sensitivity to light.

Foy and co-authors later published a piece in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, alleging it is the first case of sexual transmission of a mosquito-borne virus between humans.

The likelihood of the virus spreading through sex has been discovered among animals, but not in humans. 

In 2015, the same journal also featured a study regarding a 44-year-old man from Tahiti who developed the same symptoms during an epidemic in French Polynesia. Scientists found the Zika virus in his semen, concluding the disease could potentially be transferred through intercourse. Additional tests showed the virus was also present in his urine. 

Despite the evidence, health officials are still undecided on the issue, according to Daily Mail.

On Jan. 24, the World Health Organization issued a statement saying the data is inadequate to determine if the disease can be sexually transmitted.

“The role of Aedes mosquitoes in transmitting Zika is documented and well understood, while evidence about other transmission routes is limited,” the WTO statement said. “Zika has been isolated in human semen, and one case of possible person-to-person sexual transmission has been described. However, more evidence is needed to confirm whether sexual contact is a means of Zika transmission.”

Symptoms in adults include a rash, fever, pink eye and headache. So far, 21 countries, mainly in South and Central America, have been affected.

Sources: Daily Mail, CDC/Emerging Infectious Diseases, Fox News / Photo credit: CDC via Fox News

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