A man in Britain who was infected with Zika while traveling to the Cook Islands showed evidence of the mosquito-borne virus in his semen for two months, health officials said Friday.
The finding raises new questions for health authorities as they scramble to learn more about Zika — linked to a surge in birth defects in Brazil — and the risk of transmission through sex.
The case involved a 68-year-old man who was infected with Zika in 2014 while traveling.
He complained of a fever, rash and lethargy upon return to Britain, where he was tested and the results came back positive for Zika.
Though Zika symptoms are often mild and resolve themselves in about a week, the virus was found during tests of semen taken 27 and 62 days after the man’s initial infection, said a report from Public Health England, published online in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal.
“Although we did not culture infectious virus from semen, our data may indicate prolonged presence of virus in semen, which in turn could indicate a prolonged potential for sexual transmission,” it said.
Speaking at a American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington on Friday, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) chief Anthony Fauci said more work needs to be done to understand how long Zika may persist in a man’s semen.
“We don’t now know,” he told reporters.
“We had said, ‘Perhaps it is just during the acute infection.’ Well, that is obviously not the case.”
With Ebola, which comes from the same family of viruses as Zika, research on persistence in semen has shown that it could last up to nine months in some men.
“What we need to do are natural history studies” for the Zika virus in order to determine how long men should use condoms or refrain from sexual contact after a Zika infection, Fauci said.
The CDC last week urged condoms or abstinence for men who live in or have traveled to the more than two dozen countries and territories in South America and the Caribbean where the virus has been detected, especially if they have pregnant partners, in which case protective measures should persist until the end of the pregnancy.
Trump aides desperately try to downplay ‘order’ to US companies to leave China
Donald Trump's top aides on Sunday downplayed the idea of US companies being forced to abandon China any time soon, as an edict from the president ordering businesses to start looking for alternatives has been met with skepticism.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economics advisor Larry Kudlow took to the airwaves from France, where Trump is participating in the G7 summit, to smooth out tensions in the business community prompted by Trump's Friday tweet.
Trump said he has "no plan now" to bring US companies in line, and his aides quickly reinforced the message.
Trump sparks confusion at G7 before doubling down on China tariffs
President Donald Trump doubled down Sunday on his hard line against China after sowing confusion with statements that he might be willing to soften a trade war G7 partners fear threatens the world economy.
At the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, Trump announced a major trade deal with Japan and promised more of the same with Britain, once Brexit is done.
But the positives were overshadowed by a mix-up over his apparent expression of regret for the latest escalation in the US-China dispute.
"I have second thoughts about everything," he conceded to reporters when asked if he regretted his decision on Friday to ramp up tariffs on all Chinese imports, worth some $550 billion, in retaliation for Beijing's earlier hike of levies on US goods.
G7 wrestles with Iran, Amazon fires and trade, but own unity shaky
G7 leaders close their summit Monday with discussion of world problems including the fires ravaging the Amazon rainforest, but overshadowed by President Donald Trump's trade wars and questions over the group's unity.
The summit in Biarritz, a high-end surfers' paradise in southwestern France, saw a dramatic shift of focus Saturday when Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif flew in to discuss the diplomatic deadlock on Tehran's disputed nuclear programme.
Zarif's presence had not been expected and it represented a gamble by French host Emmanuel Macron who is seeking to soothe spiralling tensions between Iran and the United States.