The report of the New York couple confirms recent warnings that infected women, as well as men, might be able to sexually transmit the Zika virus, which has spread to about 50 countries in the last year, largely borne by mosquitoes. Cases of sexual transmission of the virus from men to women, and men to men, have been reported since February in the current outbreak.
Some evidence has shown the virus in urine, saliva, and vaginal fluids of infected women, but sexual transmission was not seen until now.
The New York woman, in her twenties, reported a "single event of condomless vaginal intercourse," according to a CDC report, on the woman's first day back from overseas travel.
She developed signature symptoms of Zika — fever, rash, joint and muscle pain — a day later. Her male partner, who had not been overseas or exposed to mosquitoes, developed the virus seven days later.
The Zika virus has been tied to severe brain birth defects in children — most notably the shrunken brain and skull syndrome called microcephaly — which has struck thousands of children in Brazil in the last year, with more recent cases linked to Zika infections reported from other countries in South America, the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico.
The woman in the new report is not pregnant. The CDC recommends that pregnant women, or women hoping to become pregnant, avoid travel to regions where Zika is now established. Men should wear condoms during anal, oral, or vaginal sex after travel to Zika afflicted regions, the CDC advises, for eight weeks if they didn't show any symptoms, or for six months if they did.
As of July 15, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has reported three cases of sexually transmitted Zika virus, which includes the woman in the new report. Overall, the city has identified 309 cases of the virus, all ultimately springing from overseas travel. The largest number, 129 cases, came from travelers to the Dominican Republic.