Health officials believe that the first sexually transmitted Zika has been detected in the UK, in one of two incidents of the virus in the past week alone. The woman believed to have been infected has since made a full recovery.
The woman is likely to have contracted the virus from her partner, who recently visited a Zika-prone country, bringing the number of diagnoses in the UK to 265, according to a statement by Public Health England (PHE). Of these cases, seven are in pregnant woman.
Why is Zika so Dangerous?
Zika is primarily a mild illness, but often dangerous for pregnant women as it can cause brain damage, developmental issues, and deformities in newborns.
The virus can live for months in semen, so men are advised to wear condoms during intercourse for up to seven months after returning from a Zika-hit region, and eight weeks for women.
A professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Prof .Jimmy Whitworth, told the BBC, “One case of sexual transmission of Zika has occurred in the UK is not unexpected. About 60 cases of sexual transmission of Zika have been reported worldwide, so we think this is quite rare.”
Regardless, the National Travel Health Network and Center (NTHNC) advises travelers to protect themselves from mosquitoes whilst abroad, and avoid traveling to Zika-prone areas as much as possible, especially if pregnant.
“Women who are planning to become pregnant and their partners should discuss their travel plans with their healthcare provider to assess the risk,” the NTHNC’s director, Dr. Dipti Patel, stated.
The World Health Organization recently downgraded Zika from “global health emergency” to “ongoing threat”, but warned travelers to practice safe sex and take extra care around pregnant women.