The first known case of the Zika virus being transmitted in the United States was reported Tuesday by Texas health officials who said it was transmitted through sexual intercourse.
The announcement came one day after the World Health Organization declared the current epidemic an international public health emergency.
The unidentified Texas victim had sex with someone who had recently traveled in Venezuela, state officials said. The virus, which causes severe birth defects in babies, has afflicted thousands of infants in Brazil.
The Dallas County case had been confirmed by the U.S. Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Reuters reported.
The virus is usually spread by mosquito bites, health experts say. The only other known case of sexual transmission occurred in 2008, when a University of Colorado State University professor transmitted the virus to his wife after returning from a research trip in Senegal, The Guardian reported.
“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, the Dallas County health and human services director.
“Next to abstinence, condoms are the best prevention method against any sexually transmitted infections,” he said, according to British news site.
The virus has been reported in some 30 countries and carriers often have no symptoms. Zika causes abnormally small heads in babies, severely limiting brain and motor functions.