Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Sharon Belmar-George, has clarified that although sexual intercourse has been proven to be a mode of transmission for the Zika virus, the main mode of transmission is from the bite of an infected female Aedes aegypti mosquito.
“The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) have documented the presence of the Zika virus in semen and vaginal fluids and in lower levels in other fluids such as saliva and breast milk. But transmission through semen and vaginal fluids are the two that have been confirmed to date. They have also confirmed transmission through male to female transmission, male to male transmission and also female to male transmission. However, they have not documented up to this point female to female transmission.”
As with other diseases which can be transmitted sexually, Dr. George indicated that the Ministry of Health continues to implore the public to engage in protected sex.
“Of particular importance to us are women who intend to get pregnant or women who are pregnant because it has been documented that the Zika virus can stay in the semen for up to 60 days at this point. So, it is possible that pregnant women can get Zika through unprotected sex apart from the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. ”
Sensitization sessions on the implications of Zika virus and the possible modes of transmission are routinely provided through antenatal clinics at wellness centres throughout the island. The Medical Officer said the hope is that women and men will take the advice seriously to protect themselves and their unborn baby.