Updated 05:24 PM EDT, Mon, Oct 19, 2020

First Local Zika Virus Case in the U.S. Sexually Transmitted?

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The first confirmed case of locally-transmitted Zika virus in the U.S. may have been acquired through sexual contact, increasing worry that the 'explosive' pandemic in Latin America has widened its spread.

According to the Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS), a patient in Texas tested positive for the Zika virus, making it the first locally transmitted case in the U.S.

What makes this news more terrifying is that health authorities found out that the patient, whose personal information is kept confidential for privacy reasons, got the virus from engaging in sexual intercourse with an infected person from a country where Zika is present.

Previously, identified means of transmission of the Zika virus was only limited to mosquito bites.

Based on a recent update from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, evidence has shown that the virus can also be transferred from one person to another, from mother to child through pregnancy, sexual contact and blood transfusion.

However, CDC Director Tom Frieden told CNN that it was an isolated case and should not raise any alarm, especially since they are already examining how the virus can be stopped from spreading.

"There have been isolated cases of spread through blood transfusion or sexual contact and that's not very surprising. The virus is in the blood for about a week. How long it would remain in the semen is something that needs to be studied and we're working on that now," he said.

Even so, Zachary Thompson, the director of the Dallas County health services bureau, called for an awareness campaign regarding the matter.

"Now that we know Zika virus can be transmitted through sex, this increases our awareness campaign in educating the public about protecting themselves and others," he said in a statement posted on the DCHHS website.

He further noted that aside from avoiding intercourse, sexual protection products like condoms should be used to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

The DCHHS site also shared other ways of preventing the spread of Zika virus, which includes DEET, dress, drain and dusk & dawn, or the so-called "4Ds."

The CDC has also issued a travel warning that pinpointed specific countries to be avoided.

Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis, though only one out of five people with the virus actually feel ill.

So far, there is still no specific treatment and vaccine for the virus, but because of its sudden "explosive" spread, authorities are now working on finding ways to end the outbreak.

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