PIXABAY, DARKO STOJANOVIC
An unsolved case of Zika transmission now has an explanation. Researchers on Wednesday (September 28) wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that physical contact with an infected person’s sweat or tears was enough to infect a man in Utah with the Zika virus.
The man, 38, began to show symptoms after visiting a Zika patient in the hospital—a 73-year-old man with an exceptionally high virus load, the researchers wrote in their paper. The 73-year-old man carried 200 million copies of the virus per milliliter of blood, much more than seen in most cases, The Atlantic reported.
While visiting the older man, the younger man helped reposition him in bed, wiping the patient’s eyes with his bare hands, he told researchers. When he came down with the virus some weeks later, the case was a mystery because the 38-year-old man had not travelled to areas...
Another flavivirus, dengue, can be transmitted by contact with virus-laden bodily fluids, and Zika virus has previously been found in tears. Because of the first patient’s abnormally severe infection, the virus likely was present in his sweat and tears, the researchers wrote.
It remains unclear, though, what potential threat this type of transmission poses to the general population. Study coauthor Sankar Swaminathan of the University of Utah told The Atlantic that, most likely, “for the general public, this doesn’t really change very much.”