Potential new method to contract Zika virus leaves questions unanswered

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Photo Credit: Audrey McNay | Daily Texan Staff

The Utah man who contracted the Zika virus by touching his dad’s tears and sweat was an extremely rare case, according to recent research published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The now-deceased father was battling prostate cancer at the time, according to CBS News. He exhibited symptoms of the disease after spending three weeks in Mexico. 

His son became sick a few days after visiting his father in the hospital, and was diagnosed with Zika. 

“There is the possibility that this individual has a set of genes that made him more susceptible to [Zika] infection,” molecular biosciences professor Jaquelin Dudley said in an email. “His son may have inherited some of those genes from his father, and he also would be more susceptible to [Zika].”

Most cases of the disease are symptom-free and some individuals may be unaware that they are infected, Dudley said.

“Although all body fluids probably have some low level of the virus, many of these fluids, including saliva, have enzymes that break down proteins in the first stage of digestion,” Dudley said. “Saliva would ordinarily render [Zika] non-infectious.” 

Public health sophomore Katie Na said there should be more precautions to test the Zika concentrations in an infected person to avoid these instances from occurring. 

“If they are going through any therapy or taking medications, these could possibly allow the virus to replicate more easily,” Na said.  

Na said it’s important to clear up the misconceptions about the Zika virus in order to ensure public safety.

“When the wrong rumors spread, it can wreck havoc to our public’s idea of safety,” Na said. “It’s important for the public to know this was a very rare case, and they are highly unlikely to be exposed to Zika in this way.”  

Biochemistry sophomore Chaitraja Kurati said the public should trust in health professionals who are well-equipped to prevent widespread transmission of diseases. 

“There’s a lot of hysteria surrounding isolated incidents that in which diseases are transmitted in uncommon ways,” Kurati said. “It’s not something to be extremely concerned about when we have trained health officials dealing with outbreaks as they happen.”