Zika is the only mosquito borne virus that is sexually transmitted. While current efforts target infected mothers and children, this may not be sufficient. Why? Men who can potentially transmit Zika virus via sex may trigger widespread infections, according to a new study.
This was published August 2017 in the peer reviewed journal, National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers wanted to know if Zika outbreaks could occur without mosquitoes. “We wanted to know what’s the biggest outbreak we can get,” says Hébert-Dufresne, the main author.
“Zika has a lot of unusual characteristics that have caused scientists a lot of confusion. Infected people rarely have symptoms, and typically only reproducing women get tested, so we know very little about the true extent of Zika’s sexual transmission.” says Hébert-Dufresne according to Science daily.
Is it possible for men to trigger Zika outbreaks?
Yes. Men retain Zika virus in their semen for about 6 months, much longer than women. Theoretically, men who become infected during visits to places where Zika-carrying mosquitoes are active could return home and remain potentially sources of infections to their sexual partners for about 6 months.
“Because people usually don’t have symptoms, we mostly care about Zika when it goes into the community of reproducing females,” he says. “But if there are hidden reservoirs of Zika infection out there that can get into the reproducing population, we might want to rethink our surveillance and prevention strategies.”
This information suggests that Zika prevention strategies should not just target women and children but men also. Although, testing is not yet recommended, this study may aid health organizations to review current prevention methods.
See the list of areas at risk of Zika as at August, 2017, according to Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC)
Africa: Angola, Benin, Burkina-Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda
The Caribbean: Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Aruba; The Bahamas; Barbados; Bonaire; British Virgin Islands; Cuba; Curaçao; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Grenada; Haiti; Jamaica; Montserrat; the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a US territory; Saba; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Martin; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Sint Eustatius; Sint Maarten; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; US Virgin Islands
North America: Mexico
What are the current facts about Zika and Sex
Are you aware of the following facts from Centers for Disease Control and prevention about Zika and Sex?
- People can become infected with Zika when they have sex with any person infected with Zika. This includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex and the sharing of sex toys.
- While this occurs within a month of infection in females, it may be as long as six months in males
- Infected People Can Pass Zika through Sex Even When They Don’t Have Symptoms
- Many people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms, and they may not know they have been infected.
- A person may also infect others before, during or after the symptoms occur.
- Like HIV, the surest way of eliminating the risk of sex transmitted Zika infection is abstinence.