Wednesday, October 4, 2023
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Zika Found in Vagina for Weeks After Infection

(CN) - Researchers in Houston said Tuesday they found genetic remnants of the Zika virus in an infected woman's vagina two weeks after symptoms began and in her blood nearly three months after infection.

The new case represents more evidence that the virus can linger in the human body for weeks or months after an infected person no longer demonstrates symptoms, which generally only last a few days. Most individuals who contract the virus don't exhibit symptoms at all, which makes recognizing potential infections much more challenging.

In a study published Tuesday in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston detailed their findings after examining a 26-year-old woman who had contracted the virus during a trip to Honduras this past May. The woman sought medical attention as she began to experience Zika-like symptoms, enabling researchers to analyze the infection in its early stages.

"Five days after her return, signs and symptoms consistent with Zika virus infection developed, beginning with rash and subsequent fever, headache, and conjunctivitis," the team wrote.

The woman's symptoms continued for more than two weeks, and included peeling of her hands and feet.

While the team only found the virus in serum — a protein-rich liquid that separates out when blood coagulates — eight days after symptoms began, fragments of its RNA genetic material remained for 81 days.

Genetic pieces of Zika were found in her saliva eight days after symptoms began, and stayed in her vagina for 14 days — the longest period recorded so far.

"With the recent finding of possible female-to-male virus transmission, infectious virus might be present in the vaginal canal and could serve as a risk for sexual or intrapartum (during birth) transmission," the team wrote.

Sexual transmission of the virus is believed to play a large role in the rapid spread of Zika, with outbreaks reported in almost 50 nations. Studies have shown the virus can remain in a man's semen for months.

Zika infections are especially dangerous for pregnant women, fetuses and infants due to Zika's connection to various congenital disorders. Symptoms of such disorders can also manifest as a child grows older.

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