The case is rare but highlights the importance of safe sex after travelling to an infected area.
The mosquito-borne disease that has wreaked havoc in certain parts of the world, has had its first sexually-transmitted case in the UK according to Public Health England (PHE).
The woman affected was thought to have been infected by her partner who had recently visited an infected region. So far, the woman has made a full recovery. The total number of UK Zika diagnoses stands at 265 since the outbreak in 2015 – seven of those cases involved pregnant women.
The Zika virus has been linked to a birth defect called microcephaly which causes deformity of the head and brain damage. Despite the number of cases, the PHE aren’t worried for the wider public as the type of mosquito that carries the Zika virus is not found in the UK.
“Zika is mainly transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito which is not present in the UK but we know it can also be passed on sexually.
“About 60 cases of sexual transmission of Zika have been reported worldwide, so we think this is quite rare,” commented Jimmy Whitworth, professor of international public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
“It is important to remember that the main risk relates to travellers to countries classified as high or moderate risk for Zika infection. Zika infection is usually a mild, self-limiting illness, and PHE’s advice is based on the fact that our main concern is to avoid infection in pregnancy, in order to avoid risk to the unborn child,” stated Professor Dilys Morgan, Zika incident director at PHE.
People are still warned to refrain from unprotected sexual activity for at least 6 months after traveling to an affected area especially for men.
“Zika virus survives in semen longer than other body fluids so recommending male travellers returning from Zika transmission countries, with or without symptoms, practise safe sex for six months is sensible.”