Zika Is Potentially Transmitted By Oral Sex, A New Case Suggests

Scientists recently discovered that the mosquito-driven Zika virus rapidly spreading across the Americas can be passed along through semen, and now they believe Zika may also be transmitted through oral sex and potentially kissing. In an online letter to the editor of  The New England Journal of Medicine posted on the site Thursday, multiple scientists and doctors detailed a case in France that supported the theory. Of course, a single case doesn’t prove anything, but it does suggest that Zika could be spread through other types of sexual contact — something researchers have been trying to figure out.

The case involved a 46-year-old man who returned to Paris from Rio de Janeiro (where Zika is widespread) after experiencing some symptoms of the virus that had subsided by the time he returned home. He had vaginal sex with his 24-year-old partner without ejaculating and oral sex with ejaculation multiple times in the following days. The woman then developed symptoms, including a rash and fever.

It’s possible that the virus was passed along through pre-ejaculate during vaginal sex, and scientists are even considering the possibility that it could be transmitted through deep kissing, but thus far it’s only been proven that people are infected through semen — not pre-ejaculate fluids or saliva. Although traces of Zika have been found in saliva, there are no cases of it being transmitted by it.

Brazil Continues Battle Against Zika Virus Ahead Of Olympic Games
CREDIT: Mario Tama/Getty

“Casual kissing has got to be safe because, if it weren’t, don’t you think we’d see a lot more Zika? Every mom who kissed her baby would pass it on,” Dr. John T. Brooks, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studying sexual transmission of the Zika virus, told The New York Times’ Donald G. McNeil. “To be sure, we’d have to look for deep kissing in the absence of sexual contact, and that’s hard to find.”

However, the scientists who penned the letter don’t think deep kissing can be ruled out as a possible form of transmission.

Because it’s known that Zika can be passed along through semen, the World Health Organization suggests that people traveling to the Zika-infested region either abstain from sex or diligently use condoms for at least eight weeks afterwards. If a male partner experienced symptoms of the virus, it recommends that women avoid getting pregnant for at least six months, since the largest known threat of Zika is potential birth defects in newborns. Luckily for lesbians, it seems that female couples are in the clear when it comes to sexual transmission.

While the exact nature of sexual transmission of Zika is up in the air, it’s best to be as safe as possible and steer clear of potentially-infected semen.