United States health officials reported Tuesday the first case of the Zika virus transmitted in the country, adding that it was via sexual contact in Texas, where the first case of the sickness was also detected in a patient who had recently been in Latin America.
"Now that we know Zika virus can be transmitted through sex, this increases our awareness campaign in educating the public about protecting themselves and others," said Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services. "Next to abstinence, condoms are the best prevention method against any sexually-transmitted infections."
In mid-January, a baby with brain damage born in an Oahu hospital in Hawaii became the first potential case of Zika virus in a newborn within U.S. borders.
In December, the virus spread to Puerto Rico after having been detected in Colombia and Brazil, where they are investigating the link between the virus and birth defects.
The Hawaii State Department of Health reported the first case of a baby in the U.S. that was diagnosed with microcephaly—a genetic defect resulting in smaller than average head and brain sizes—at birth. The infant's mother had been in Brazil for a month while pregnant.
Although the World Health Organization says there is no evidence yet of the relationship between malformations and Zika, research has been actively looking at the connection, while in Brazil and Colombia, authorities have warned women against falling pregnant.
The WHO said there are 4,180 reported cases of microcephaly in Brazil, while alerting that up to 4 million persons will be affected by the Zika virus in the Americas over the next year.
On Monday the WHO held an emergency meeting to assess the actions to be undertaken at the global level. The disease is 75 percent asymptomatic and has no cure so far, causing the WHO to declare the virus to be a “global public health emergency.”
According to the WHO, the effects of El Niño, have had a negative impact on the increase in cases of Zika.
U.S. health officials confirmed the first case of Zika virus Jan. 11 in Harris County Texas, in a patient who had recently visited Latin America.
Zika, a mosquito-borne virus, is not fatal in humans and most patients make a full recovery, but it can cause birth defects and neurological issues.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control has said that the most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis.
"The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week," the CDC explained. "Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. A possible link between Zika virus infection in pregnant women and subsequent birth defects is being investigated in Brazil."
There is currently no vaccination or medicine to treat the virus.
WATCH: Colombia: More Than 20,000 Zika Cases Confirmed