The first US case of Zika virus acquired through sexual transmission has been confirmed by health officials, as the mosquito-borne virus spreads across the globe.
According to a statement released by the Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS), a patient in Dallas County was infected with the virus after having sexual contact with an ill individual who returned from a country where Zika virus was present.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) this week declared the outbreak of the virus an international emergency, following the initial outbreak reported in Brazil, in May 2015.
Travellers were especially warned to remain on high alert while moving between countries, and were advised to reconsider visiting 22 countries in the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa and the Pacific Islands under threat from the mosquito-borne virus.
Zika virus is transmitted to people by mosquitoes and through sexual activity, and can be harmful to unborn babies who, if infected, could suffer from severe deformities.
The DCHHS statement said although there were no reports of Zika virus being locally transmitted by mosquitoes in Dallas County, the virus could spread to local mosquito populations.
“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,” DCHHS director Zachary Thompson said.
“Next to abstinence, condoms are the best prevention method against any sexually-transmitted infections.”
There had been six confirmed travel-related cases of Zika virus disease, all among residents of Harris County, where Houston was located, the Texas Department of State Health Services said.
DCHHS advised anyone with symptoms to see a healthcare provider if they had visited an area where Zika virus was present or had sexual contact with a person who traveled to an area where it was present.
There was no specific medication available to treat the virus and there was no vaccine. The best way to avoid Zika virus was to avoid mosquito bites and to avoid sexual contact with a person who had Zika virus, it said.
Aussies, be aware of the risks
Meanwhile, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said that Australians needed to be realistic about the threat of the Zika virus spreading to Australia.
Mr Dutton said Australians should take comfort in the success of authorities stopping the spread of previous viruses such as Ebola, but they still needed to be aware of the risk to the nation.
“We need to be realistic. Australians travel in huge numbers each year. We welcome tourists in massive numbers, particularly from southeast Asia,” he told the Nine Network on Wednesday morning.
Mr Dutton said all options were on the table but pointed out the World Health Organisation (WHO) was yet to call for restrictions on travel.
“If there are measures that need to be implemented, we will implement them, but the WHO hasn’t advised of any restrictions,” he said.
Government officials were already identifying high-risk targets.
“Border force and the Department of Agriculture staff at the airport will be intercepting and having a look at people coming off particular flights … there is also some spraying going on, particularly around cargo.”
– with AAP