A person in Texas has been infected with the Zika virus likely through sexual intercourse in the first case of the illness being transmitted in the United States as the outbreak spreads throughout Latin America.
The unidentified person hadn't traveled abroad but had sex with a person who returned from Venezuela and contracted Zika, Dallas County health officials said on Tuesday. The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued a statement saying lab tests confirmed the non-traveler was infected with Zika.
The virus, which may be connected to thousands of birth defects in the Americas, is primarily spread through mosquito bites, but investigators had been exploring the possibility it could be sexually transmitted.
A Colorado researcher who picked up the virus in Africa reportedly infected his wife back home in 2008, and Zika was found in one man's semen in Tahiti.
"It's very rare but this is not new," Zachary Thompson, director of the Dallas County Health and Human Services, told WFAA-TV in Dallas. "We always looked at the point that this could be transmitted sexually."
The CDC said it will issue guidance in the coming days on prevention of sexual transmission of the Zika virus, focusing on the male sexual partners of women who are or may be pregnant.
The CDC has already recommended that pregnant women postpone trips to more than two dozen countries with Zika outbreaks, mostly in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Venezuela.
It also said other visitors should use insect repellent and take other precautions to prevent mosquito bites.
The World Health Organization on Monday declared a global emergency over the rapidly spreading Zika virus, saying it is an "extraordinary event" that poses a threat to the rest of the world.
The declaration was made after an emergency meeting of independent experts called in response to a spike in babies born with brain defects and abnormally small heads in Brazil since the virus was first found there last year.
WHO officials said it could be months before science proves or disproves any connection between the virus and babies born with abnormally small heads.
|Zika virus gif [Al Jazeera]