Health crisis

Zika virus likely to spread to the U.S., could be transmissible through sex

A woman holds her son, who has microcephaly caused by the Zika virus. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The Zika virus, which is currently spreading through Latin America and the Caribbean and has been linked to birth defects in babies and paralysis in adults, will most likely spread to every country in the Americas, except for Canada and Chile, the Pan American Health Organization said on Monday. The CDC believes it would follow the same pattern as dengue fever (limited outbreaks in wet, hot regions such as Florida) and hopes it can be contained through aggressive mosquito control. Possibly even more concerning, however, is that scientists believe that the virus on rare occasions could also be transmitted through sex.

So far the medical evidence for this is slim, with only one known case in the literature of live Zika virus being detected in a man’s semen. The New York Times also details a fascinating 2008 case that suggests the virus could be sexually transmitted. While health officials at the CDC admit there is a “theoretical” risk which warrants further investigation, they believe this should not prompt a large public health recommendation.

Nevertheless, Scott Weaver, an expert on the virus and director of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, said that if he showed Zika symptoms, he would wait a few months before having unprotected sex. “If my wife was of childbearing age, I’d want to use protection, certainly for a few weeks,” he told The New York Times.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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