The first known case of sexually-transmitted Zika virus occurred in 2009 when biologist Brian Foy of the University of Colorado returned from Senegal where he was studying mosquitoes. He was apparently bitten by mosquitoes there. Before showing symptoms, he had sexual relations with his wife. Foy then fell ill with Zika, as did his wife subsequently. Tests showed that she had contracted Zika and, since she had not travelled to Senegal or anywhere else where the main disease vector – the Aedes egypti mosquito – lives, experts concluded that she got the sickness through sex. See Spero News article from January 26.
 
Also, a February 2015 CDC paper reported that the Zika virus was found in the semen of a male patient in French Polynesia, confirming even then that contagion through sex was possible. Experts found Zika RNA in the patient’s semen even though it was not found in his blood, two weeks after he ceased to have Zika symptoms. So far, researchers do not know for how long a person can transmit the Zika virus sexually after being infected. In addition, there is at least one case to possible transmission of Zika through blood transfusions. HIV/AIDS is among those diseases that can be transmitted through transfusions.
 
Zachary Thompson of Health and Human Services declared that the best way to prevent the spread of Zika through sexual transmission is with the same methods recommended for other sexually transmitted diseases: abstinence or condoms.
 
Zika symptoms, among most sufferers, include fever and rashes, pink eye, and joint pain. It is pregnant women who are at risk of passing on the virus to their unborn children or by nursing. In Brazil, a growing incidence of microcephaly among babies has been blamed on Zika. Microcephaly is a congenital condition in which the head and brain of some babies are abnormally small at birth. Microcephalics face severe developmental obstacles.
 
The Aedes egypti mosquito is found throughout the Deep South of the United States and has a range that continues into New England and the Midwest. Rumors are circulating that it was genetically modified mosquitoes that targetted Aedes egypti that may be responsible for the sudden upsurge in contagion. The scientists' aim was to release only male Aedes mosquitoes into the wild and they would in turn produce offspring with virus-carrying females. It was expected that their offspring would then die off before breeding again due to the GM coding in their genes. The effort went ahead, despite concerns expressed by experts about the program at its inception, arguing that further studies were needed on the potential consequences. Zika has been known since the 1950s, but it has been only over the last year that Brazil and the rest of Latin America have shown a dramatic uptick in cases. The World Health Organization announced on January 30 that Zika poses a health emergency on the order of the Ebola crisis of the last few years.

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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