Images of babies afflicted with microcephaly have been floating through the media as world health officials raise the alarm about the Zika Virus, which can cause shrunken heads and brain defects when pregnant mothers are infected.
Although the virus is predominantly found in the Caribbean and Latin America, in recent weeks it spread to the United States, and now Texas officials have discovered the virus spread through sexual contact in Dallas County.
The Zika Virus is generally thought of as being spread through mosquitoes. The Center for Disease Control hasn’t confirmed the new transmission method, but in 2008 there were reports of a researcher in Colorado who spread the virus to his wife.
In the most recent case, one individual developed symptoms after visiting Venezuela and, although their sexual partner hadn’t been to the area, they also tested positive, NBC DFW reported. According to the CDC, the symptoms of Zika are mild and include a fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, although one in five people who are infected with the virus don’t have any symptoms.
“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,” said Dallas County Health and Human Services director Zachary Thompson. “Next to abstinence, condoms are the best prevention method against any sexually-transmitted infections.”
Neither of the patients in Dallas are pregnant and Dr. Laura E. Riley of Massachusetts General Hospital told the New York Times that it’s rare for the virus to linger, so if one of the people infected in Dallas should become pregnant soon, it’s unlikely that the child will have birth defects.