(RxWiki News) A US county has reported the nation's first locally acquired infection with Zika, a mosquito-borne virus — but it didn't involve mosquitoes.
Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) officials reported Tuesday that the patient who acquired the virus locally — meaning he or she didn't contract it in a foreign country — did so through sexual activity.
“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 DCHHS Director Zachary Thompson in a press release. “Next to abstinence, condoms are the best prevention method against any sexually-transmitted infections.”
Zika, which is better known for spreading through mosquitoes, is currently plaguing large parts of the world, including South America, Central America and parts of Asia. Symptoms usually include rash, fever, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Most cases resolve within a week, DCHHS reports.
Still, fears of the virus spreading to the US have run high in recent weeks — likely due to the virus' potential link to the birth defect microcephaly in babies of infected mothers. Microcephaly causes babies to have unusually small heads and underdeveloped brains.
Several patients have acquired Zika in other countries and returned to the US, reports Reuters, but the case in Dallas County marks the first locally transmitted case in the US. The way in which the patient acquired this infection may seem surprising, but limited research has suggested that the virus could be transmitted through sex, Reuters reports.
The US patient's partner had recently traveled to a country with large numbers of Zika cases, DCHHS reports.
DCHHS also reported another case of Zika Tuesday, in which the patient had recently traveled to Venezuela and was diagnosed after returning to the US.
DCHHS noted that no US-acquired Zika cases have been tied to mosquito bites so far. Still, mosquitoes are the most common vessel for the infection's spread. The Texas health agency said patients can protect themselves by using insect repellents, limiting outdoor activity, draining areas of stagnant water, and dressing in long sleeves and pants.
“Education and awareness is crucial in preventing Zika virus,” said Dr. Christopher Perkins, DCHHS medical director/health authority, in a press release. “Patients are highly encouraged to follow prevention recommendations to avoid transmitting and spreading Zika virus.”