Georgetown Infectious Disease Expert Comments on Possible Case of Sexually Transmitted Zika Virus

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WASHINGTON (Feb. 2, 2016) – Today, a Texas health department reported a case of Zika virus that may have been acquired through sexual contact with someone who had recently returned from an epidemic area. Georgetown infectious disease specialist Jesse L. Goodman, MD, MPH, commented that if sexual transmission is confirmed, additional guidance for pregnant women is likely warranted.

“A case of likely sexual transmission of Zika virus was previously reported related to an outbreak several years ago, so the possibility has been there. We need more details about the case reported by Dallas officials in order to reach any conclusions.

“In most cases, Zika infection in healthy people has either been asymptomatic (80%) or caused mild illness. However, we are still learning about this disease, and the recent strong association between the Zika epidemic in Brazil and a marked increase in microcephaly in newborns has resulted in travel warnings for pregnant women to reduce the potential risk of infection resulting in this birth defect. Although unclear how frequently sexual transmission may occur, or the degree of risk of exposure through that route, if confirmed, this case suggests the potential to further guard against risk to pregnant women, or women intending to become pregnant, with advice to reduce risks from sexual contact if their partner may have recently been exposed to Zika from mosquitos in countries where there is ongoing active transmission. Because of rapidly changing knowledge, advice about protecting against Zika may well change over time as more is learned.

“This report emphasizes the importance of better understanding the spread and transmission of Zika, and its potential health risks. It also reinforces the critical importance of working in collaboration globally both to control the mosquitos that transmit the disease and, longer term, to develop a safe and effective vaccine.”

Goodman, is professor of medicine and infectious diseases, and is director of Georgetown’s Center on Medical Product Access, Safety and Stewardship. He is the former Chief Scientist of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

Goodman has limited availability for interviews this evening.  Please contact Karen Teber at for more information.

Click here for a list of Georgetown subject matter experts who can provide comment and context on Zika in the areas of infectious disease (clinical and molecular biology), biology, global health, maternal health, microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome. 

About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through MedStar Health). GUMC’s mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis — or “care of the whole person.” The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing & Health Studies, both nationally ranked; Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute; and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization, which accounts for the majority of externally funded research at GUMC including a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health.