The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is confirming the first sexually transmitted case of Zika virus in Georgia. A non-pregnant female was infected by her male partner who had traveled to Brazil earlier this year and was among Georgia’s confirmed travel-related cases. The woman who was infected had not traveled out of the country. She and her partner have fully recovered.
A man infected with Zika can pass the virus to his female or male sex partner before, during and after symptoms appear. Exactly how long Zika virus remains in semen is not known, but a recent report indicated Zika remaining in semen for 62 days. Research is ongoing, but at this time there is no evidence that women can transmit Zika virus to their sexual partners.
“If your partner has traveled to an area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing, protecting yourself by abstaining from sex or using condoms during sex is the best way to prevent sexual transmission of the Zika virus,” said Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., commissioner, Georgia Department of Public Health. “Next to abstinence, condoms are the best prevention method against any sexually transmitted infection.”
For women who want to get pregnant and whose male partner has been diagnosed with Zika or has (or had) symptoms, the couple should consider using condoms or not having sex for at least 6 months after symptoms begin. If the male partner does not develop symptoms, the couple should consider using condoms or not having sex for at least 8 weeks after the man returns.
Couples considering pregnancy should discuss with their health care provider the potential risk of Zika virus during pregnancy. The virus can spread from a woman to her child during pregnancy and the infection is linked to microcephaly, a birth defect in which the baby is born with a smaller-than-normal head due to abnormal brain development.
Most people infected with Zika virus will not develop symptoms. If symptoms do develop, they are usually mild and include fever, rash, joint pain and eye redness. If an individual returns from a Zika-affected country and has fever with rash, joint pain, and eye redness or other symptoms within two weeks, they should see a doctor and indicate where they’ve traveled.
Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika. Travelers should check CDC travel advisories for their destinations and take precautions to protect themselves from mosquitoes:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing 20%-30% DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or IR3535 (during travel and for three weeks after returning home)
- Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents)
- Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms or sleep under a mosquito net
To date, there are 17 confirmed travel-related cases of Zika virus in Georgia. There are no confirmed local mosquito-borne cases of Zika virus in Georgia.
Zika virus is transmitted primarily through the bite of infected Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. Both species are found in Georgia.