Women can give Zika to men, health officials say

July 18, 2016 Providence Health Team

Zika, the virus that can cause birth defects when it infects pregnant women, has been found for the first time to spread from women to men through sex, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced.

The first reported case of female-to-male transmission of Zika was documented in New York City, according to the CDC. The virus is transmitted primarily by mosquito bite, and it was previously known to spread from men to women.

In this new report, New York City health officials investigated the case of a woman in her 20s who engaged in sex with a male partner the day she returned to New York from travel to an area experiencing a Zika outbreak.

A day later she began experiencing Zika symptoms, including fever, a rash, back pain and numbness in her hands and feet. Her health care provider ran tests that showed she was infected with the virus.

Seven days after their meeting, the male partner developed symptoms of his own and visited the same primary care provider, who ran tests that found the virus present in his urine.

“The case represents the first reported occurrence of female-to-male sexual transmission of Zika virus,” the CDC said.

You can read the agencies’ statement here.

Taking precautions

The CDC said its guidance until now has been based on the assumption that Zika is transmitted by a male sexual partner. More observations are needed to determine the risk of transmission from an infected female, it said.

The CDC said it’s updating its recommendations for avoiding infection. You can read its current guidelines here.

Where Zika is found

The CDC’s current map of areas with active cases of Zika virus transmission includes much of South America, Central America, the Caribbean and some Pacific islands, such as Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Papua New Guinea.

But at least 1,306 people, including 346 pregnant women in the United States, appear to have been infected with the virus, the CDC said. Some of the pregnancies have resulted in miscarriages and the birth of babies with birth defects.

Severe birth defects, including microcephaly, have been reported in Brazil and elsewhere. Microcephaly is a condition in which babies are born with smaller-than-normal heads, the result of their brains not fully developing before birth.

Symptoms of Zika and when to be tested

Many infected people will have no symptoms or very mild symptoms. But for many others, symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Joint pain
  • Conjunctivitis, or red eyes
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache

Many infected people don’t even go to the hospital, says the CDC, which notes that Zika “very rarely” kills an infected person.

The virus usually remains in the blood for about a week. The CDC says anyone suffering from Zika symptoms or who has recently traveled to an infected area should see a health care provider for testing.

The CDC discusses Zika, including its transmission, its symptoms, testing and mosquito control, on its website.

If you have traveled to an area where Zika cases are active, or if you experience Zika symptoms, talk to your health care provider. You can find a Providence provider here.

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