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Person in UK 'infected with Zika virus through sexual transmission'


Transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of the Zika virus

Transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of the Zika virus

Transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of the Zika virus

A person in the UK is thought to have been infected with the Zika virus through sexual transmission, health officials have said.

Public Health England (PHE) said that one case of "likely sexual transmission" of Zika virus infection has been reported in the UK.

Meanwhile, of the 265 travel-associated cases reported in Britain, seven have been diagnosed in pregnant women, PHE said.

PHE said the case of sexually transmitted Zika virus was identified in a woman whose partner had recently visited an affected region.

She has since made a full recovery, PHE said.

The mosquito-borne disease has been linked to a birth defect called microcephaly, which results in children with abnormally small heads and brain damage.

The mosquito that transmits the virus is not found in the UK so risk to the wider British public is deemed to be negligible by health leaders.

Of the 265 British travellers identified as being infected with the virus, t he majority of cases - 190 - are associated with travel to the Caribbean, according to the figures from Public Health England.

Cases have been linked to travel to Barbados, Jamaica, St Lucia, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago

Meanwhile, 33 cases have been linked to travel to South America and two cases have been associated to travel to Florida in the US.

One case has been reported from South East Asia and another has been linked to travel to Oceania.

Professor Dilys Morgan, Zika incident director at PHE, said: "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."

Health officials advise that men who visit affected areas should use condoms for six months following their return.

Women should avoid getting pregnant for at least two months after leaving an area deemed to have "high or moderate" risk of Zika virus transmission.

Dr Dipti Patel, director at the National Travel Health Network and Centre, said: "As we move towards holiday season with increased numbers of people visiting friends and relatives in Zika-affected areas, we recommend that all travellers seek out the latest travel health advice.

"This particularly applies to pregnant women going to an area with active Zika virus transmission who should ensure they seek travel health advice from their GP or a travel clinic well in advance of their trip and consult the NaTHNaC website for up-to-date information on current outbreaks and country information."

Commenting on the news, Jimmy Whitworth, professor of international public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: "News that one case of sexual transmission of Zika has occurred in the UK is not unexpected.

"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."

The current outbreak began in Brazil in 2015.

Earlier this year, the virus' link to microcephaly was deemed a public health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Officials lifted the declaration earlier this month but cautioned that the virus' link to microcephaly was still a "significant and enduring public health challenge".

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