Infectious disease specialist Dr. John Carlo

Dallas County Health and Human Services reported its first case of sexually transmitted Zika Virus, one of the first in the country.

Zika is usually transmitted by mosquito. Although the particular breed of mosquito does live in Dallas County, the mosquito population is not active here this time of year. During summer months, the county has experience controlling mosquitos because of the need to control a different mosquito that carries West Nile Virus.

Does Zika Virus pose a greater danger to people with HIV?

“We don’t know,” AIDS Arms CEO John Carlo said. “There’s simply no info, but anytime there’s an infection, people with HIV are at increased risk.”

The greatest known Zika Virus risk is in pregnant women. Babies born to infected women have the birth defect microcephaly, a small head with incomplete brain development. There’s no cure for the condition.

Most people infected with Zika Virus remain asymptomatic. Those who become ill suffer nothing more than a rash, fever and some pains. But new research is showing in some cases, Zika can lead to Guillain-Barré, a neurological condition that can lead to paralysis.

Zika Virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947. Small outbreaks have been seen in remote places around the world. In 2015, a major Zika outbreak occurred in Brazil.

The virus was thought to be spread only by mosquitos, but the Dallas case announced today confirms Zika can be sexually transmitted.

“Now that we know Zika virus can be transmitted through sex, this increases our awareness campaign in educating the public about protecting themselves and others,” said Zachary Thompson, DCHHS director. “Next to abstinence, condoms are the best prevention method against any sexually-transmitted infections.”

For now, Carlo said, mosquitos are the main method of transmission and most likely to be acquired when traveling. The major outbreaks have been in Brazil, Venezuela and other countries in northern and central South America. Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have also had outbreaks. Someone who is pregnant should not travel to those places. But with Zika spreading through sexual contact, the virus will spread beyond the person who brought it into the country.

Carlo said the incubation period for the virus is about 10 days. Symptoms last three to 10 days. There’s a test for the virus that is recommended for women who are pregnant and have traveled to an infected area. He said we don’t know how long after having the virus a woman should wait before considering getting pregnant.

Circumstances surrounding the infected couple have not been released to protect their privacy. Carlo said he assumed one traveled to an infected area, was infected by a mosquito and transmitted the virus sexually to a partner. Because of the obnoxious media response and stupid stunts pulled by reporters after the Ebola outbreak in Dallas two years ago, it’s really a great idea for the couple to remain out of the news.

Dallas County Health and Human Services recommendations to avoid mosquito-transmitted viruses:

Use the 4Ds to reduce the chance of being bitten by a mosquito.

DEET: All Day, Every Day: Whenever you’re outside, use insect repellents that contain DEET or other EPA approved repellents and follow instructions.
DRESS: Wear long, loose, and light-colored clothing outside.
DRAIN: Remove all standing water in and around your home.
DUSK & DAWN: Limit outdoor activities during dusk and dawn hours when mosquitoes are most active.

Travelers can protect themselves by doing the following:

• Choose a hotel or lodging with air conditioning or screens on windows or doors.
• Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are outside or in a room that is not well-screened.

Sexual partners can protect each other by using condoms to prevent spreading sexually-transmitted infections.