Officials in Canada confirmed the country's first case of a sexually transmitted Zika virus infection on Monday.
The person, who was not identified further, lives in the province of Ontario and is suspected of having contracted the virus from a sexual partner who was diagnosed with it after traveling to an affected country, according to a statement put out by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. It does not specify what country that was, but notes that the case was confirmed by Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory.
"While bites from infected mosquitoes remain the primary way to get Zika virus, sexual transmission of the virus is to be expected given that a small number of cases have been reported elsewhere in the world," the statement reads.
The World Health Organization has identified Zika cases in Argentina, Chile, France, Italy and New Zealand as likely caused by sexual transmission, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also investigating cases of possible sexual transmission.
Along with the new case transmitted locally through sex, Canada has confirmed 55 Zika infections, all related to travel to other countries.
In March, Saskatchewan announced that it may have Canada's first case of Zika transmission through sex, after reporting that a woman who did not travel outside the country was suspected of having the virus. "The Saskatchewan case remains under investigation," a spokesman for the province's ministry of health told the Canadian Press. "It hasn't yet been confirmed by the National Microbiology Laboratory."
"We want to remind Canadians that there have been no confirmed cases of locally-acquired Zika virus through mosquitoes, and that the overall risk in Canada remains very low; mosquitoes known to transmit the virus are not established in Canada and are not well-suited to our climate," Canadian officials said Monday.
US health officials have concluded that a Zika infection in a pregnant woman can cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by small head size that can lead to severe developmental problems in babies. The World Health Organization has said there is strong scientific consensus that Zika can also cause Guillain-Barre, a rare neurological syndrome that causes temporary paralysis in adults.
The connection between Zika and microcephaly first came to light last fall in Brazil, which has now confirmed more than 1,100 cases of microcephaly that it considers to be related to Zika infections in the mothers.
There is no treatment or vaccine for Zika infection