Women Can Pass Zika to Men, NY Case Shows

     (CN) — Federal health officials reported the first case of female-to-male sexual transmission of the Zika virus, raising new concerns that the disease will spread quickly beyond the nations where it is already endemic.
     The case involves a woman in her 20s who contracted Zika after visiting a nation experiencing active local transmission before returning to New York City. She had unprotected sex with a man on her return. Neither party was identified.
     The woman went to a doctor after experiencing Zika symptoms, where tests showed that she was infected with the virus. Her partner, who had not traveled to an area experiencing local transmission and had not been bitten by a mosquito — the primary way Zika is transmitted – tested positive for the virus after he also experienced Zika symptoms.
     “The hypothesis is that this was transmitted sexually, and I think that’s probably a pretty good case,” John Brooks, a medical epidemiologist who is leading research on the sexual transmission of Zika for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Shots. “This is the first case that we’re aware of, anywhere.”
     Containing the virus has been difficult since health officials know little about it, many nations in the Caribbean and South America have ineffective mosquito control programs, and symptoms can be confused with the common cold or flu. The CDC estimates that 20 percent of people infected with Zika do not exhibit symptoms.
     The CDC revisited its recommendations for avoiding sexually transmitted Zika infections based on the new case, now recommending that pregnant women whose sexual partners are female use a barrier method of contraception or refrain from sex during the pregnancy. The agency had previously recommended that pregnant women use condom or avoid sex during pregnancy if her male sexual partner has traveled or lived in an area experiencing local transmission of the virus.
     The agency also recommends that men who have traveled to areas where Zika is spreading use condoms or abstain from sex for at least six months. If they do not have Zika symptoms, such precautions would instead be necessary for at least eight weeks.
     While health officials are unsure how women spread Zika to men, the virus has been detected in the vaginal fluid of at least one woman and nonhuman primates.
     Uncircumcised men are also at greater risk for sexually transmitted diseases, according to the CDC — a factor that may also increase the risk of contracting Zika.

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