zika transmission

Zika was able to transmit through physical contact in Utah case. Image Credit: Karen Arnold

A mysterious case of transmission of Zika has been documented in Utah. It has been thought that Zika spreads through the bite of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, semen or is transmitted from pregnant women to their fetuses. However, it appears that Zika has been transmitted through physical contact in this case, but there are many conditions.

This case began when a 73-year-old man was admitted to a hospital in Salt Lake City after experiencing inflammation, watery eyes, a rapid heart rate, and low blood pressure. He had returned from a 3 week trip to the southwest coast of Mexico, where Zika had been previously reported, and 8 days before admission. He was bitten by mosquitoes during his trip. This might be the possible explanation for his contraction of Zika virus. It has also been found that the Zika virus that infected the patient was 99.8% identical to that carried by a mosquito collected from southwest Mexico. He died shortly after 4 days of the admission which is also rare. Only 9 other cases of deaths of adults have been reported due to Zika.

However, the second case of Zika contraction to his 38-year old son, who had helped his father in repositioning him in bed and wiping his tears without using gloves, is strange. He had neither traveled to a Zika-infected area nor had sex with anybody who was infected with Zika. Besides, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are not present in Utah. Seven days after the death of the father, son had developed red and watery eyes which are a common Zika symptom. Tests had confirmed that he had contracted mild type of Zika and later recovered from it. Doctors were baffled about the transmission of Zika to son.

Tests done by the reasons have found that the concentration of virus in the father’s blood was 200 million particles per milliliter. “I couldn’t believe it. The viral load was 100,000 times higher than what had been reported in other Zika case, and was an usually high amount of any infection.” Says author Swaminathan, Chief of Infectious Disease and Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Utah. So, the scientists have concluded that the concentration of virus in father’s blood led to his death and may be the cause of transmission of the virus to his son while he was repositioning him and wiping his tears. However, scientists are not sure about it.

“We may never see another case like this one. But one thing this case shows us is that we still have a lot to learn about Zika. For the general public, this doesn’t change much. This rare case is helping us to understand the full spectrum of the disease, and precautions we may need to take to avoid passing the virus from one to another in specific situations.” Says Swaminatham.

So, this case is extremely rare and we don’t have to worry about it much. The worries of transmission of Zika are still mosquito bites and sex with the infected person. But, we must take standard precautions like wearing gloves and face masks while visiting the patient suffering from Zika as a precaution.

Journal Reference: The New England Journal of Medicine


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Transmission of Zika through physical contact documented
A mysterious case of transmission of Zika through physical contact alone has been documented in Utah.
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