In the news is the discovery that the Zika Virus appears to have been sexually transmitted in Dallas County, Texas. There appears to be much angst about this, but let’s offer some perspective.
What’s the particular concern with the news of sexual transmission? Consider that a theoretical question.
- One major answer is the risk of birth defects in newborns, particularly microcephaly (an irreversible condition in which infants are born with brains that are both damaged and abnormally small). Well, there are a host of sexually transmitted infections (STI) that are already known to cause birth defects, including toxoplasmosis, syphilis, varicella-zoster (chicken pox), parvovirus B19, cytomegalovirus, rubella and herpes. Does the threat of these diseases cause a widespread increase in use of condoms? Not especially.
- How about the notion that the Zika virus is a sexually transmitted disease (STD)? Well, a very large number of the population has grown quite comfortable with the idea of living with HIV, herpes, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea and other illness. To be clear, one in four Americans already lives with an STD/STI. Even the notion that HIV can be deadly, herpes has no cure and pelvic inflammatory disease from chlamydia or gonorrhea can cause sterility in women still doesn’t sufficiently incentivize the population to use condoms.
All of this is to say that it’s not very likely that the introduction of the Zika virus as a sexually transmitted infection would change very much in our habits. That said, you would do quite well to take simple steps to avoid exposure.
- Now is not the time to travel to areas in which the Zika virus has taken hold, especially if you’re pregnant or are of child-bearing age – regardless of your immediate intentions about getting pregnant.
- Now is the time to consider altering your sexual habits to include condom use, which remains the best way to prevent contracting sexually transmitted infections (other than abstinence).
As spring and warmer climates arrive, be mindful of preventive strategies to avoid mosquito bites and the diseases they bring. And always be smarter than the pack. Use condoms.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
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