Health officials are faced with new concerns after a county in Texas reported a case of Zika virus being sexually transmitted.
The development has been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a statement quoted in an alert by the AFP.
“Dallas County Health and Human Services has received confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the first Zika virus case acquired through sexual transmission in Dallas County in 2016,” the AFP quoted the statement as saying.
“The patient was infected with the virus after having sexual contact with an ill individual who returned from a country where Zika virus is present.”
Until now, data available on the virus show that it is spread to people through Aedes mosquitoes’ bites.
The virus, which has fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis as symptoms, has more devastating effect in pregnant women.
The virus has been linked with birth defects, particularly the birth of babies with small skull, brains and the tendency to have stunted growth.
Initially, limited to the Americas, the virus has spread rapidly to Europe and prompted the World Health Organisation to declare it a global emergency.
The Director-General, WHO, Margaret Chan, issued the health alert on Monday after a meeting with the organisation’s disease control committees in Geneva.
Chan said, “I am now declaring that the recent cluster of Zika virus- related microcephaly and other neurological abnormalities reported in Latin America following a similar cluster in French Polynesia in 2014 constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.”
According to her, the priorities of countries are to protect pregnant women and their babies from harm and to control the mosquitoes that are spreading the virus.
The WHO warned that Zika was likely to spread explosively across nearly all of the Americas with more than 20 countries, including Brazil reporting new cases daily.
Chan added, “Currently, there is no vaccine or medication to stop Zika. The only way to avoid catching it is to avoid getting bitten by the Aedes mosquitoes that transmit the infection.”
Last week, the Federal Government had alerted Nigerians about the outbreak of Zika virus infection, with directive that the citizens, especially pregnant women, should be restricted from traveling to Latin America until the situation improves.
The government directed the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to include Zika virus diagnosis as part of the ongoing efforts to manage Lassa fever outbreak in the country, adding that anyone coming from any of the Latin American countries should be interviewed at the various ports of entry to ascertain evidence of Zika virus symptoms.
A statement by the Federal Ministry of Health quoted the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, as saying, “The World Health Organisation has raised a global alert because the disease has affected about 23 countries in Americas especially in Latin America. At the moment, there is no cure or vaccine for Zika virus infection.
“The Federal Ministry of Health hereby advises a travel restriction especially by pregnant women to Latin America for now until the situation improves. In addition, we have directed the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to include Zika virus diagnosis as part of ongoing effort to manage Lassa fever outbreak in the country.
“Nigerians should be vigilant and report promptly any case of unexplained fever that is more than 48 hours, especially in those with recent travels to Latin America, to health care professionals.
“Nigerians working at various ports of entry into the country should interview anyone coming from any of the Latin American countries for evidence of Zika virus symptoms.”