Zika Is Sexually Transmitted,  Fast Approaching Our Shores

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Two major health authorities namely the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization) WHO have confirmed that the ZIKA Virus is now essentially a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD).

Earlier this month the CDC announced that while there are still some unknown factors about the ZIKA virus, it is proven that men can transmit the disease to their sexual partners: “A man with Zika virus can pass it to his female or male partners during vaginal, anal, or oral sex without a condom. Zika can be passed from a man with symptoms to his sex partners before his symptoms start, while he has symptoms, and after his symptoms end,” the CDC announced.

The US Health authority also mentioned that men with Zika who never develop symptoms may also be able to pass the virus to their sex partners, because the virus is capable of staying in semen. “Zika virus can stay in semen longer than in blood, but we don’t know exactly how long Zika stays in semen or how long it can be passed to sex partners,” the CDC stated.

In February this year the CDC announced the first documented case of a man infected with Zika virus through anal sex. Following that announcement there was a report published in April which noted suspicion of Zika virus transmission through oral sex.

As it relates to the factors that are still unknown about the virus, the CDC explained that most of the mystery is linked to the female sexual transmission of the virus: “There are some things we still do not know about Zika and sex. We don’t know if a woman with Zika can pass the virus to her partners, during vaginal or oral (mouth-to-vagina) sex. We don’t know if Zika can be passed through saliva during kissing,” the CDC said.

WHO Concern

Based on a June World Health Organization report officials have essentially classified the virus as a double threat because of its dual transmission route: “The primary transmission route of Zika virus is via the Aedes mosquito. However, mounting evidence has shown that sexual transmission of Zika virus is possible and more common than previously assumed,” WHO sources announced.

The Organization stated that the concerns about the sexual transmission of Zika were first suggested in 2011 in a study that described the case of a male patient infected with Zika virus in south-eastern Senegal in 2008, who infected his wife via sexual intercourse upon return to the United States of America.

Since then and up to 19 May 2016, sexual transmission of Zika virus has been reported in ten countries (United States of America three cases, France four cases, Italy five cases, Argentina seven cases, Chile eight cases, Peru nine cases, Portugal ten cases, New Zealand 11 cases, Canada 12 cases and Germany 13 cases).

“To date, all published cases of sexual transmission have been from symptomatic males whose sexual activities may have occurred before, during or after Zika symptom onset…It remains unknown if women or asymptomatic men can transmit the virus through sexual activity,” WHO said.

The report also noted that the Zika virus can remain in a man’s semen for an extended period of time. This was first discovered in December 2013 where the virus was cultured in a man’s semen at least 14 days after symptom onset.

In 2016 two studies reported the presence of Zika virus in semen. One of the report documented that the virus was cultured from the semen specimen 14 days after diagnosis (thus more than 2 weeks after illness onset); and the viral load detected was 100,000 times that of his blood.

In the second report and most recent study, published in May 2016, researchers reported the case of a 68-year-old man returning to the United Kingdom from the Cook Islands. His semen was positive for Zika virus 62 days after his symptoms began. This is the maximum documented time of Zika virus detection in semen. However, the full length of time that the virus can persist in semen after onset of symptoms remains unknown, as sequential samples were not collected.

Zika and the BVI

As of 20 July when this article was written there were no reported cases of Zika virus in the Territory. Nonetheless the health officials warned that the public should remain vigilant.

In May Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ronald Georges advised that the current intermittent rain pattern requires the implementation of preventative measure to keep Zika and other vector borne viruses out of the Territory.

In February, the Chief Medical Officer announced that the arrival of Zika to the Territory was inevitable: “We need to look at Zika as inevitability — the same way that Chikungunya made its trek across the Americas we have to look at Zika doing the same thing; so eventually we will have a confirmed case in the British Virgin Islands,” he said.

ZIKA Close to Home — USVI

In a Zika surveillance report issued on 19 July by the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health it was announced that St John was the only island without a confirmed case of the Zika virus. The report noted that on Saint Thomas there were 208 reported cases of which 38 were Confirmed Zika. While there were eight reported cases on St John, none was confirmed positive for the virus. On the other hand, St Croix had 184 reported cases of which 18 were confirmed Zika. Most common symptoms include: rash, fever, arthralgia, eye pain and headache.

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