While scientists scramble to gather data and information about its prevalence and transmission, more unexpected questions continue to arise concerning the spread of Zika. The virus' ability to be transmitted sexually has necessitated even more research and care as officials look to put a damper on its reach. Recently, scientists have had to ask: How long can Zika stay in a vagina? In one particular study, the virus remained inside a woman for two weeks.
Published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, scientists examined one woman in particular, "a previously healthy, nonpregnant, 26 year-old non-Hispanic white woman returned to the United States from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, during mid-May 2016." Scientists monitored her closely from the beginning, continuously testing her blood, saliva, and vaginal canal for Zika. They ultimately "observed prolonged detection of virus RNA in vaginal mucosal swab specimens and whole blood" and had "detected viral shedding in vaginal secretions up to day 14." Thus, it was concluded that Zika can stay in the vagina for at least two weeks.
The implications of this study aren't just restricted to concerns of transmission, though, seeing the virus was present in the actual vaginal canal; In addition to sexual transmission, intrapartum transmission of Zika is also possible which, sadly, gives pregnant mothers yet another thing to worry about in the age of Zika. Researchers did concede, though, that they are as of yet unable to evaluate if the Zika that remained inside this woman was contractable by other people. Zika studies on mice, however, have shown that the virus has been able to replicate while in the vaginal canal.
As is the case in any new, scientific development, researchers were sure to note that more research needs to be gathered regarding Zika's presence in the vagina. They wrote:
Additional studies involving larger cohorts of acutely ill Zika virus–infected patients tested over a longer period would solidify our understanding of the natural history of infection, duration of viral detection, and clinical outcomes, [in that "these studies will enable further development of evidence-based policies regarding diagnosis and clinical management of Zika virus-infected patients.
Pregnant women and women looking to become pregnant must be gravely careful, avoiding travel to Zika-affected areas as much as possible. Zika-related birth defects, namely microcephaly, are a devastating and unfortunate result of the virus' outbreak. Keeping a constant eye out for any Zika symptoms and avoiding all contact with the virus is key in ensuring the health of oneself as well as the health of one's child.