The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that a woman recently returned from an area with active Zika infection may have contracted the disease and then transmitted it to a male partner through sexual intercourse.


A recent press release issued by the CDC documents the case of a woman in her twenties from New York City who appears to have contracted the Zika virus while travelling in an area with ongoing transmission of the virus.  Upon return to New York City, she engaged in a single incident of unprotected sex with a male partner, who several days later was also diagnosed with Zika symptoms.

The press release indicates that the woman experienced symptoms of headache and abdominal cramping while at the airport awaiting her return flight to New York.  She engaged in intercourse with her partner that same day, following arrival in New York.  The next day, she developed additional symptoms consistent with Zika, including fever, fatigue, a maculopapular rash, myalgia, arthralgia, back pain, swelling of the extremities, and numbness and tingling in her hands and feet. She also began menstruation, which she reported as heavier than usual. Blood and urine samples taken two days later by her primary care physician tested positive for Zika virus RNA (ribonucleic acid).

Seven days after sexual intercourse, the woman’s male partner also developed symptoms associated with Zika, including fever, a maculopapular rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. Urine samples taken by the same primary care physician tested positive for the Zika virus RNA, although blood serum was negative.

Subsequent interviews with the woman and man conducted by New York’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) confirmed facts supporting the theory that the virus was transmitted in this case through sexual intercourse.  The male partner had not traveled outside the United States during the previous year, and had not had any mosquito bites during the week before falling ill. It is thought that the virus may have been transmitted from the woman’s vaginal fluids or menstrual blood to her partner’s urethral mucosa or through undetected abrasions on his penis.

The case is the first reported incident of female-to-male sexual transmission of the Zika virus. Previously, authorities had warned only against sexual transmission from a male partner. Further surveillance is required to determine the extent of the risk for transmission from a female to her sexual partners. In the meantime, however, the CDC is warning that individuals wishing to avoid risk of contracting the Zika virus should abstain from sex with anyone who has recently travelled to an area where Zika is active, or be sure to correctly and consistently use condoms for vaginal, anal, and oral sex, in accordance with the guidance on the subject from the CDC (see http://www.cdc.gov/zika).

The CDC indicates it will update its guidance on prevention of sexual transmission of the Zika virus as additional information becomes available.




Written By: Linda Jensen

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