The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that a man in Maryland contracted Zika while abroad, showed no symptoms, and subsequently infected his partner during unprotected sex. This is the first case of infection where the host showed no visible symptoms of the virus.
The CDC indicated that the case signals a possible need for broader recommendations for protected sex after visiting a Zika-stricken area. The Maryland man visited the Dominican Republic earlier this year. After returning to the United States, he had unprotected sex with his female partner twice—10 and 14 days after returning. The woman contracted Zika on day 16.
Symptoms of Zika include rash, fever and joint pain. According to the Maryland man, he exhibited none of the typical signs of infection and reported only that he felt tired. The lack of symptoms isn’t unusual, the CDC notes that the majority of people infected with the Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms.
The CDC advises that couples who are trying to conceive wait at least eight weeks if one partner has traveled to an area with an active Zika outbreak. Today, the CDC said that the Maryland case “indicate that it might be appropriate to consider” anyone who has traveled to an area with Zika, “as exposed to Zika virus, regardless of whether the returning traveler reports symptoms of Zika virus infection.”
As Zika continues to spread throughout the United States—with active cases in three Florida counties—the CDC is playing a bit of a catch-up game, one created by Congress, as it has yet to pass a Zika funding bill. Earlier this year, the White House requested $1.9 billion in emergency Zika funding, but the Republican-led House added numerous riders to the bill, including attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and language about Confederate flag bans. The paltry amount of federal money that is dedicated to Zika is from the White House which diverted funds from Ebola research and antipoverty campaigns.
But as the federal government ignores the increasing problem, Florida hasn’t had much of a response either. Zika has become a political football during election season. The news largely consists of Senator Marco Rubio and his challenger, Representative Patrick Murphy, pointing fingers at one another while Governor Rick Scott ignores the problem. Rubio, however, was kind enough to argue that pregnant women who contract Zika should not be allowed to get an abortion, microcephaly be damned.
In the vacuum of federal and state action, Planned Parenthood has organized canvassers to walk door-to-door in underserved neighborhoods in Miami-Dade county. PP is providing residents with information about mosquito control and free Zika testing for pregnant women (it’s worth noting, especially in light of the Maryland case, that men without symptoms currently don’t qualify for free Zika testing). NPR reports:
Lillian Tamayo, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida, told NPR that Miami-Dade County has the state’s largest population of people without health coverage, which leaves these residents particularly vulnerable to Zika. “More than one-third of Florida does not have an OB-GYN,” she said. “It also is among the worst states in the country for women’s health and women’s well-being. And it has staggering infection rates for sexually transmitted diseases. And now we have Zika.”
So this is our dystopia, one created by a group of deeply misguided individuals intent only on determining that the outcome of a pregnancy is birth, no matter the costs. Meanwhile, women, healthy pregnancies, and healthy babies are left by an ideological wayside. And Congress, so irrationally bound to fantasies about abortion and Planned Parenthood, finds itself less powerful than a mosquito.