First sexually transmitted case of Zika virus in U.S. confirmed by Dallas officials

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Aedes Aegypti mosquitos are photographed in a laboratory of control of epidemiological vectors in San Salvador, on January 27, 2016. Health authorities have issued a national alert against the Aedes aegypti mosquito, vector of the Zika virus which might cause microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome. AFP PHOTO / Marvin RECINOS / AFP / Marvin RECINOS (Photo credit should read MARVIN RECINOS/AFP/Getty Images)

DALLAS — One day after the Zika virus was declared a global health emergency, Dallas health officials confirmed the first case of sexual transmission.

The person had sex with an individual who acquired the virus during a trip to Venezuela, and also became ill.

“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, director of Dallas County Health & Human Services.  “Next to abstinence, condoms are the best prevention method against any sexually transmitted infections.”

Much is still unknown about the virus and experts had  already been investigating the possibility of transmission through sexual contact.  Zika virus was found in the semen of a man in Tahiti, and a Colorado man claimed to have infected his wife in 2008 after returning home from a trip overseas to research the virus.

Zika virus, which causes fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, has also been linked to serious birth defects such as microcephaly, which afflicts babies with abnormally small brains and skulls.  Roughly 10 percent will show signs of normal intelligence, but most experience problems ranging from intellectual disabilities to coordination problems.

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

New York City has had three confirmed cases of Zika virus, one involving a pregnant woman.  All three had recently returned from countries that have experienced a Zika outbreak.

This week, the World Health Organization declared the Zika outbreak a global emergency, saying it is likely to be spread to every country in the Americas, except for Canada and continental Chile.

One of the hardest-hit regions is Brazil, the host country for this year's Summer Olympics.  Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has promised to direct a wealth of resources toward fighting the virus as the games near.

See the latest information about the Zika virus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.