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Officials Question Reports Of Zika Transmission Via Urine, Saliva

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Officials Question Reports Of Zika Transmission Via Urine, Saliva

Health

Officials Question Reports Of Zika Transmission Via Urine, Saliva

Officials Question Reports Of Zika Transmission Via Urine, Saliva

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/465701023/465704595" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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U.S. officials say there's no need for alarm over reports from Brazil out Friday that active Zika virus has been found in saliva and urine samples. Mosquitoes remain the primary source of Zika, and there's no proof that saliva and urine can transmit the virus, even if it is present there. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, talks with Mary Louise Kelly about how the Zika virus may spread.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

We are tracking new research from Brazil this morning that suggests the Zika virus may be transmitted through more ways than previously understood. At a news conference today, the head of a Brazilian government research organization said studies have detected active Zika in urine and in saliva, which suggests maybe it could be transmitted through those means. Joining us now is Dr. Anthony Fauci. He is the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Good morning, Dr. Fauci.

ANTHONY FAUCI: Good morning.

KELLY: What should we make of these findings?

FAUCI: Well, I think we better be careful that we don't jump to any conclusions about transmissibility. First of all, the finding of Zika virus in saliva actually is not a new finding. It was reported in the medical literature in July of 2015. And virus in the urine was reported over a year ago in an infectious disease journal. So that's the first thing. The second thing is that we have to be careful that when you find a virus or fingerprints of a virus in a body secretion, absolutely does not necessarily mean that it is transmitted that way. You don't want to take it lightly. You don't want to just blow it off. You have to follow it and make sure that when you do your natural history study there's no indication of that. But there are other viruses that we do isolate from products and secretions like urine, like saliva, like tears, in which there's no evidence whatsoever of transmissibility by that modality. And as a matter of fact, up to now there has been no evidence at all that it is transmitted that way. So although we note this, and we make sure we want to follow it, I think it would be a mistake to jump to the conclusion that now we have another way that this virus is being transmitted. We have to be very careful about that.

KELLY: OK, so just to be crystal clear - you're drawing a distinction here between whether the virus can exist in urine and saliva or whether it possibly might be transmitted through those means.

FAUCI: Right. There's obviously a theoretical possibility, but there's no evidence that it's happened or that it will happen.

KELLY: If it is true - if it proves to be true - if further research does prove this, what are the implications, especially for pregnant women?

FAUCI: Well, first of all, the implications whenever you have proof - and we've got to underscore, we don't have any proof at all - if you have proof that something is transmitted, that a virus or a microbe is transmitted by a body secretion, then you have to put into place guidelines for how you handle in a safe way those secretions. And that - these are the kinds of things that fall under the category of universal precautions when we do know that something can be transmitted. But we're certainly not there yet at all. But that's how you handle new knowledge about a particular virus or a particular microbe in a secretion.

KELLY: And just to remind listeners, the ways that we do know Zika can be transmitted - the one we keep hearing about - is, of course, through mosquitoes. There has been a reported case of sexual transmission - any new developments there?

FAUCI: Well, no. There's no doubt that the sexual transmission of Zika has been clearly very well documented in the most recent case from Texas, and that's the reason why we're getting the updated guidelines about men who travel to this area or who live in this area, if they in fact will be having sex with a - particularly a pregnant woman, to make sure that they either refrain from sexual activity or that they use correct and consistent use of condoms. So when you get information about a new way of transmission, then you have to adapt the way you approach that - the way the guidelines regarding sexual transmission are coming out from the CDC.

KELLY: OK, Dr. Fauci, thank you.

FAUCI: Good to be with.

KELLY: That's Anthony Fauci - he directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - updating us on a possible new development out of Brazil this morning on the Zika virus.

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