STD Awareness: Sexual Transmission of Zika Virus

Zika

Zika virus. Image: Cynthia Goldsmith, CDC

I first heard of Zika virus in an epidemiology class, when another student made on offhand remark: “Did you know Zika virus can be transmitted sexually?” Ever vigilant for material for the STD Awareness column, I excitedly scribbled the name of the virus in my notes. But upon further investigation, I found that there were only a couple of documented cases of the sexual transmission of this virus that no one had heard of, and decided there was no reason to freak people out about yet another potential STD when rates of more common STDs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, were on the upswing.

A year later, Zika virus was splashed across headlines on a daily basis, mostly for its newfound association with birth defects, but also in light of revelations that it could be transmitted by sex.


Access to condoms and reliable contraception is more vital than ever.


While Zika virus is usually transmitted by mosquito bites, the discovery that it can be sexually transmitted made it the only known virus that could be spread both sexually and by mosquitoes. It’s also the only known mosquito-borne virus that can cross the placenta to harm a fetus. Like several other viruses, including CMV and rubella, Zika is implicated in serious birth defects. But many health authorities worry that its potential as a sexually transmitted pathogen is dangerously underestimated. As of August 31, there have been 23 confirmed sexually transmitted cases of Zika virus in the United States — but sexual transmission will rise as the virus jumps into local mosquitoes, which will also make it difficult or impossible to tell if a sexually active Zika patient got the virus from sex or directly from a mosquito.

Earlier this year, sexually transmitted Zika virus in Texas made headlines, with many journalists incorrectly proclaiming it the first known case of sexual transmission. In fact, Zika’s sexual transmission was first documented in 2008, before “Zika” was a household name and the married couple who published their experience in a scientific paper thought they could share their STD status in relative obscurity. Despite referring to themselves as “Patient 1” and “Patient 3,” a science reporter quickly figured it out and (with their permission) revealed their identities in a 2011 article — still years before Zika-bearing mosquitoes would hit the Americas and trigger a microcephaly epidemic that propelled the virus to infamy. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • same-sex-coupleLet’s start this rundown off right with some heartening, touching news: Our uber-conservative governor, Doug Ducey, shocked us all by clearing the way for same-sex couples to adopt and foster children in Arizona. (AZ Central)
  • Somebody pinch me. More Arizona goodness: A Scottsdale venture capitalist is doing his part to ensure that women in the United States have access to affordable birth control. How terrific! (Tucson Sentinel)
  • Delaying pregnancy could reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. (Live Science)
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 90 percent of teenagers who are sexually active used some form of birth control the last time they were intimate. Ninety percent! Ahhh-mazing. (Tech Times)
  • Dear Religious Right: My president is not here for your “conversion therapy” shenanigans. (NYT)
  • Will California pass a bill to force “crisis pregnancy centers” to start giving abortion options? If so, I’ll go ahead and wager my entire bank account that these lying liars will close every single location. Sorry, but the truth is they’d much rather deceive women than help them. (RH Reality Check)
  • Joining Utah, South Dakota, and Missouri, North Carolina is on track to become the fourth state in the nation to enact a three-day waiting period for abortion. Congratulations on sucking, all of you.  (The News & Observer)
  • Kansas has banned the safest and most convenient procedure for women undergoing second-trimester abortions. (NYT)
  • The whirlwind of Republican idiocy continues in Alabama, where conservatives are now trying to prevent abortion clinics from being located within 2,000 feet of a public school. Because someone terminating a pregnancy could somehow affect anonymous, oblivious school children? Does Alabama ban guns (including concealed carry) within 2,000 feet of public schools? Nope!!! (Montgomery Advertiser)
  • Younger Republicans are less pig-headed about birth control than their older peers, but still fairly pig-headed. (HuffPo)
  • Women who develop gestational diabetes early in their pregnancies are more likely to give birth to children who will later be diagnosed with autism. (Reuters)

National Infant Immunization Week: A Timely Reminder to Protect Your Child

babyVaccinations, or immunizations, are important for the health of your baby. National Infant Immunization Week, in its 20th year, continues to educate and inform parents of this important information. In the first two years of your infant’s life, vaccines can protect against 14 diseases.


How wonderful that science enables us to protect our little ones from serious diseases like polio, tetanus, and diphtheria!


Under five years of age, a child’s immune system is not developed enough to defend against some infections that can cause disability and even death. Vaccination schedules for infants are designed to protect them at times when they are most vulnerable to potentially serious diseases — diseases that are easily transmitted and quickly overwhelm an immature defense system. Vaccines contain “germs,” such as inactivated or weakened bacteria or viruses, that can stimulate an immune response. The amount and type of “germs” in vaccines are designed to help infants’ immune systems develop protection from the serious consequences of getting that disease.

Watching your baby undergo painful injections that may give them some uncomfortable reactions like fever and aches can make any parent worry, but these short-term effects are much less serious than getting the disease. For example, mothers — who may not even know they have hepatitis B because they do not show symptoms — can transmit the disease to their baby during childbirth. Years later, that child may develop serious liver disease. By routinely receiving a hepatitis B vaccine at birth, babies are protected from this life-threatening disease. Continue reading