For one Zika patient, lingering symptoms and few answers

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13 PHOTOS
Zika in San Juan, Puerto Rico
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Zika in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Reuters journalist Nick Brown works at his laptop at a cafe in San Juan, Puerto Rico, August 8, 2016. Picture taken August 8, 2016. REUTERS/Alvin Baez TO MATCH INSIGHT HEALTH-ZIKA/PATIENT
Reuters journalist Nick Brown poses for a photograph at a cafe in San Juan, Puerto Rico, August 8, 2016. Picture taken August 8, 2016. REUTERS/Alvin Baez TO MATCH INSIGHT HEALTH-ZIKA/PATIENT
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen at the Laboratory of Entomology and Ecology of the Dengue Branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in San Juan, Puerto Rico, March 6, 2016. REUTERS/Alvin Baez/File Photo TO MATCH INSIGHT HEALTH-ZIKA/PATIENT
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen at the Laboratory of Entomology and Ecology of the Dengue Branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in San Juan, Puerto Rico, March 6, 2016. REUTERS/Alvin Baez/File Photo TO MATCH INSIGHT HEALTH-ZIKA/PATIENT
A flyer that reads, "Questions and answers: Zica virus infection during pregnancy" is seen posted outside a doctor's office, at a public hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico, February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alvin Baez/File Photo TO MATCH INSIGHT HEALTH-ZIKA/PATIENT
A health worker prepares insecticide before fumigating a neighborhood in San Juan, in this January 27, 2016, file photo. Researchers around the world are now convinced the Zika virus can cause the birth defect microcephaly as well as Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that can result in paralysis, the World Health Organization said on March 31, 2016. REUTERS/Alvin Baez/Files
Noriany Rivera, who is 40 weeks pregnant, looks at her belly as she listens to a doctor during a routine check up, as flyers explaining how to prevent Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya viruses are posted on the wall, at a public hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico, February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alvin Baez/File Photo TO MATCH INSIGHT HEALTH-ZIKA/PATIENT
Noriany Rivera, who is 40 weeks pregnant, touches her belly during a routine check up, as fliers explaining how to prevent Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya viruses are posted on the wall, at a public hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico, February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
Jannelissa Santana, who is 37 weeks pregnant, leans on a wall, next to a flyer explaining how to prevent Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya viruses at a public hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico, February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
LOIZA, PUERTO RICO - AUGUST 30: Misael Carrasquillo, 2 months old, sleeps in a mosquito net covered baby stroller next to his identical twin brother Ismael during a visit for regular vaccinations at the Concilio de Salud Integral in Loiza, a primary care health clinic, on August 30, 2016 in Loiza, Puerto Rico. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that 25% of the Puerto Rico's population could have the Zika Virus by the end of mosquito season, and that up to 50 pregnant women each day are infected on the island. A recent study projected as many as 270 babies could be born with the debilitating birth defect microcephaly, between now and mid-2017. In a normal year, doctors expect to see just 16 such cases. (Photo by Angel Valentin/Getty Images)
LOIZA, PUERTO RICO - AUGUST 30: A mosquito net covered baby stroller where two month old twins Misael and Ismael Carrasquillo slept during a visit for regular vaccinations at the Concilio de Salud Integral in Loiza, a primary care health clinic, on August 30, 2016 in Loiza, Puerto Rico. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that 25% of the Puerto Rico's population could have the Zika Virus by the end of mosquito season, and that up to 50 pregnant women each day are infected on the island. A recent study projected as many as 270 babies could be born with the debilitating birth defect microcephaly, between now and mid-2017. In a normal year, doctors expect to see just 16 such cases. (Photo by Angel Valentin/Getty Images)
LOIZA, PUERTO RICO - AUGUST 31: Literature on the prevention of ZIka and other diseases handed out by health clinic workers during a wellness fair in the Las Cuevas neighborhood on August 31, 2016 in Loiza, Puerto Rico. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that 25% of the Puerto Rico's population could have the Zika Virus by the end of mosquito season, and that up to 50 pregnant women each day are infected on the island. A recent study projected as many as 270 babies could be born with the debilitating birth defect microcephaly, between now and mid-2017. In a normal year, doctors expect to see just 16 such cases. (Photo by Angel Valentin/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Feb. 11, 2016, file photo of aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen in a mosquito cage at a laboratory in Cucuta, Colombia. Top U.S. officials are urging Puerto Rico on Wednesday, July 6, to strongly consider aerial spraying to prevent further spread of mosquito-borne Zika, saying as many as 50 pregnant women on the island are infected every day and warns it's only a matter of time before Puerto Rico sees babies born with microcephaly, a rare birth defect linked to Zika infections. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan, File)
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SAN JUAN (Reuters) - It began with what felt like a punch in the throat.

I assumed it was irritation from the cigar I'd smoked on my deck that afternoon in mid-June. But the sensation hung on. Within three days, I had a 102-degree Fahrenheit (38.9 degrees Celsius) fever, chills and bed-drenching night sweats.

For two weeks, symptoms came in waves. A skin rash. Joint pain. Then a dull throbbing behind my eyes. There was pain and redness too, in a certain exclusively male region, which ibuprofen didn't relieve.

SEE ALSO: How one Utah man contracted the Zika virus remains a mystery

Then, I felt better. But a week later, the symptoms staged a comeback, with more eye pain and something new - small welts on my eyelids and temples. I had sporadic headaches, was so exhausted I slept 10 hours a night and even failed to wake up for a flight.

My mother was the first to suspect I was infected with the virus that arrived in Puerto Rico in December 2015, four months after I'd begun an assignment as Reuters' San Juan bureau chief.

Initially, I laughed off her internet diagnosis as the overwrought worries of a long-distance mom. But I agreed to see my long-time physician during a visit home in late June.

After listening to my symptoms and learning I'd been working in San Juan, Dr. Kevin Wallace of Murray Hill Medical Group called the New York City Health Department and arranged to have my blood sent for screening. Eight days later, I got the news.

Mom was right. I had Zika.

Related: Learn more about microcephaly, a birth defect linked to Zika:

15 PHOTOS
Brazil reporting more microcephaly cases, defect cause by Zika
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Brazil reporting more microcephaly cases, defect cause by Zika
Sophia, who is two weeks old and was born with microcephaly, sleeps before her physical therapy session at the Pedro I hospital in Campina Grande, Paraiba state, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. The Zika virus, spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, is suspected to be linked with occurrences of microcephaly in new born babies, but no link has been proven yet. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Lara, who is less then three months old and was born with microcephaly, is examined by a neurologist at the Pedro I hospital in Campina Grande, Paraiba state, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. Alarm in recent months over the Zika virus, which many researchers believe can cause microcephaly in the fetuses of pregnant women, has prompted calls, both inside and outside Brazil, to loosen a near-ban on abortion in the worldâs most populous Catholic country. But the pro-choice push is creating a backlash, particularly among the families of disabled children. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Juliana da Silva, is illuminated by a ray of sunlight as she poses for a photo holding her daughter Maria, who was born with microcephaly, inside their house in Alcantil, Paraiba state, Brazil, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. Brazil is in the midst of a Zika outbreak and authorities say they have also detected a spike in cases of microcephaly in newborn children, but the link between Zika and microcephaly is as yet unproven. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this Jan. 30, 2016 photo, Jose Wesley, who suffers from microcephaly, sleeps on a large pillow on his mother's bed in Bonito, Pernambuco state, Brazil. Associated Press photographer Felipe Dana paid a return visit to Jose, who he met while covering the Zika virus outbreak and its reported connection to microcephaly in the northeastern state. A month had gone by and it did not appear that little Jose was getting better. Not only did Jose scream uncontrollably, but one of his eyes convulsed. Jose's mother said that in subsequent doctor visits she had learned that Jose would likely be blind and paralyzed. He had lost weight, from 7 to 5 kilograms (15 to 11 pounds), a huge drop for a baby who should be growing. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Josiane da Silva holds her son Jose Elton, who was born with microcephaly, outside her house in Alcantil, Paraiba state, Brazil, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. The Zika virus, spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, thrives in people's homes and can breed in even a bottle cap's-worth of stagnant water. Public health experts agree that the poor are more vulnerable because they often lack amenities that help diminish the risk. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Juliana da Silva, holds her daughter Maria, who was born with microcephaly, as her father walks in their house in Alcantil, Paraiba state, Brazil, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. Brazil is in the midst of a Zika outbreak and authorities say they have also detected a spike in cases of microcephaly in newborn children, but the link between Zika and microcephaly is as yet unproven. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Juliana da Silva, sits with her daughter Maria, who was born with microcephaly, inside their house in Alcantil, Paraiba state, Brazil, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. Brazil is in the midst of a Zika outbreak and authorities say they have also detected a spike in cases of microcephaly in newborn children, but the link between Zika and microcephaly is as yet unproven. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Luiza, who was born with microcephaly, listens to music playing from a mobile phone at her grandmother's house in Santa Cruz do Capibaribe, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. The Zika virus, spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, thrives in people's homes and can breed in even a bottle cap's-worth of stagnant water. The virus is suspected to be linked with occurrences of microcephaly in new born babies, but no link has been proven yet. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Angelica Pereira holds her daughter Luiza, who was born with microcephaly, outside her house in Santa Cruz do Capibaribe, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. The Zika virus, spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, thrives in people's homes and can breed in even a bottle cap's-worth of stagnant water. The virus is suspected to be linked with occurrences of microcephaly in new born babies, but no link has been proven yet. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Laurinaldo Alves adjusts the pacifier of his daughter Luana Vitoria, who suffers from microcephaly, during a physical stimulation session at the Altino Ventura foundation, a treatment center that provides free health care, in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. Brazil is in the midst of a Zika outbreak and authorities say they have also detected a spike in cases of microcephaly in newborn children, but the link between Zika and microcephaly is as yet unproven. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
A therapist works with microcephaly patient Luana Vitoria, who is wearing corrective leg casts, during a physical stimulation session, at the Altino Ventura Foundation, a treatment center that provides free health care, in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. Brazil is in the midst of a Zika outbreak and authorities say they have also detected a spike in cases of microcephaly in newborn children, but the link between Zika and microcephaly is as yet unproven. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Daniele Ferreira dos Santos holds her son Juan Pedro, who was born with microcephaly, during visual stimulation exercises at the Altino Ventura Foundation, a treatment center that provides free health care, in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. Brazil is in the midst of a Zika outbreak and authorities say they have also detected a spike in cases of microcephaly in newborn children, but the link between Zika and microcephaly is as yet unproven. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Gleyse Kelly da Silva, watches her napping daughter Maria Giovanna, who was born with microcephaly, at the Altino Ventura Foundation, a treatment center that provides free health care, in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. Brazil is in the midst of a Zika outbreak and authorities say they have also detected a spike in cases of microcephaly in newborn children, but the link between Zika and microcephaly is as yet unproven. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Severina Raimunda holds her granddaughter Melisa Vitoria, left, who was born with microcephaly and her twin brother Edison Junior at the IMIP hospital in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. The zika virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is well-adapted to humans, thrives in people's homes and can breed in even a bottle cap's-worth of stagnant water. The Zika virus is suspected to cause microcephaly in newborn children. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
FILE - In this Jan. 30, 2016 file photo, Jose Wesley, who was born with microcephaly and screams uncontrollably for long stretches, is attended to in Bonito, Pernambuco state, Brazil. The Zika virus is drawing worldwide attention to a devastating birth defect that until now has gotten little public notice. Regardless of whether the mosquito-borne virus really causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads, a variety of other conditions can trigger it. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)
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EVOLVING KNOWLEDGE

Hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to have been infected with Zika in the Americas since the virus was detected in Brazil early last year. Most have no symptoms or experience only a mild illness.

But it can penetrate the womb in pregnant women, causing a rare but crippling birth defect known as microcephaly. In adults, it has been linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome, a temporary paralysis. And it can be passed on through sex, a unique characteristic among mosquito-borne viruses. There is no vaccine or treatment.

Last month, the U.S. government declared a public health emergency in Puerto Rico, the hardest hit among states and territories. More than 17,800 infections have been reported on the island, including more than 1,500 among pregnant women, and one case of microcephaly in an aborted fetus.

As a journalist and a patient, I've had access to some of the brightest minds studying Zika. But the virus has confounded experts at the highest levels and launched a global race to understand its risks.

Each month, new findings have led to changes in how the public is advised to stay safe. Compared to what we know about other diseases, such as flu and even Ebola, we are in new territory.

In my case, doctors were hard-pressed to explain why my symptoms returned about three weeks after the initial infection. Nor could they tell me how long I could be at risk for Guillain-Barre. Another mystery: were condoms enough to protect against sexual transmission?

In the weeks since I've recovered, that is proving to be one of the toughest questions to live with.

Both men and women can infect their sexual partners. In one case, scientists identified Zika virus in semen six months after the man's symptoms appeared, though it's not clear how long it can cause new infections.

Public health officials have warned couples not to conceive for at least six months after either a man or woman returns from a Zika outbreak area, even if they show no symptoms.

My wife and I, both in our early 30s, have had to consider how dangerous my bout with Zika could be to our plans to have children some day.

Our most intimate decisions now are affected by the uncertainty surrounding Zika: how long can I infect my partner? How likely is it that my baby would become sick if I do? Given how rapidly the expertise about Zika has evolved so far, how much faith should we put in the current thinking?

See how Florida is working to eradicate Zika:

11 PHOTOS
Zika outbreak in Miami-Dade county
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Zika outbreak in Miami-Dade county
Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control inspector Sharon Nagel peers into a drain in Miami's Wynwood district to detect any mosquito presence on Saturday, July 30, 2016. A day earlier, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said that the Zika virus is being transmitted by mosquitoes in a one-square-mile area north of downtown Miami. (Marsha Halper/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control inspector Sharon Nagel stops to write in her log on Northwest 28th Street in Miami's Wynwood district on Saturday, July 30, 2016. On foot and in her truck, Nagel covered a swath of the district to combat any mosquito presence. A day earlier, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said that the Zika virus is being transmitted by mosquitoes in a one-square-mile area north of downtown Miami. (Marsha Halper/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JULY 30: Sharon Nagel, a Miami-Dade County mosquito control inspector, walks through the Wynwood neighborhood looking for mosquitos or breeding areas where she kills the mosquitos with larvicide granules or a fogger spraying pesticide as the county fights to control the Zika virus outbreak on July 30, 2016 in Miami, Florida. There have been a reported four individuals that have been infected with the Zika virus by local mosquitoes which makes them the first known cases of the virus being transmitted by mosquitoes in the continental United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Diana Ozuna, with her 20-month-old daughter Lianah, lives in Miami's Wynwood district -- an area in which the Zika virus is being transmitted by mosquitoes. On Saturday, July 30, 2016, Ozuna talks about the threat of the virus. She says she takes the threat seriously and applies protective spray on her and her daughter. (Marsha Halper/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control inspector Sharon Nagel drops a chemical tablet into a drain that shows signs of mosquitos in Miami's Wynwood district on Saturday, July 30, 2016. A day earlier, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said that the Zika virus is being transmitted by mosquitoes in a one-square-mile area north of downtown Miami. (Marsha Halper/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JULY 30: Sharon Nagel, a Miami-Dade County mosquito control inspector, walks through the Wynwood neighborhood looking for mosquitos or breeding areas where she kills the mosquitos with larvicide granules or a fogger spraying pesticide as the county fights to control the Zika virus outbreak on July 30, 2016 in Miami, Florida. There have been a reported four individuals that have been infected with the Zika virus by local mosquitoes which makes them the first known cases of the virus being transmitted by mosquitoes in the continental United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JULY 30: Sharon Nagel, a Miami-Dade County mosquito control inspector, walks through the Wynwood neighborhood looking for mosquitos or breeding areas where she kills the mosquitos with larvicide granules or a fogger spraying pesticide as the county fights to control the Zika virus outbreak on July 30, 2016 in Miami, Florida. There have been a reported four individuals that have been infected with the Zika virus by local mosquitoes which makes them the first known cases of the virus being transmitted by mosquitoes in the continental United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JULY 30: Sharon Nagel, a Miami-Dade County mosquito control inspector, walks through the Wynwood neighborhood looking for mosquitos or breeding areas where she kills the mosquitos with larvicide granules or a fogger spraying pesticide as the county fights to control the Zika virus outbreak on July 30, 2016 in Miami, Florida. There have been a reported four individuals that have been infected with the Zika virus by local mosquitoes which makes them the first known cases of the virus being transmitted by mosquitoes in the continental United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JULY 30: Robert Muxo, a Miami-Dade County mosquito control inspector, prepares to use a fogger to spray pesticide to kill mosquitos in the Wynwood neighborhood as the county fights to control the Zika virus outbreak on July 30, 2016 in Miami, Florida. There have been a reported four individuals that have been infected with the Zika virus by local mosquitoes which makes them the first known cases of the virus being transmitted by mosquitoes in the continental United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JULY 30: Robert Muxo, a Miami-Dade County mosquito control inspector, prepares to use a fogger to spray pesticide to kill mosquitos in the Wynwood neighborhood as the county fights to control the Zika virus outbreak on July 30, 2016 in Miami, Florida. There have been a reported four individuals that have been infected with the Zika virus by local mosquitoes which makes them the first known cases of the virus being transmitted by mosquitoes in the continental United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JULY 30: Robert Muxo, a Miami-Dade County mosquito control inspector, uses a fogger to spray pesticide to kill mosquitos in the Wynwood neighborhood as the county fights to control the Zika virus outbreak on July 30, 2016 in Miami, Florida. There have been a reported four individuals that have been infected with the Zika virus by local mosquitoes which makes them the first known cases of the virus being transmitted by mosquitoes in the continental United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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SHRUGGING IT OFF

When I took the one-year post in Puerto Rico, I figured my biggest health risk would be sunburn.

Even when Zika began circulating on the island, I didn't worry. My wife Julie, a lawyer and publishing industry pro, had decided to stay at home in Brooklyn during my assignment, and we weren't planning to have kids for at least a couple of years. So we gave Zika little more than a shoulder shrug.

I'm not sure when I was infected. I picked up more mosquito bites in San Juan than Twitter followers. I didn't always use bug spray. I worked from home, an apartment in a colonial building without window screens, and kept the deck doors open to save money on air conditioning.

Locals are used to mosquito-borne illnesses, including dengue and chikungunya. Some, more concerned about pesticides than Zika, successfully fought aerial spraying with Naled. Many also are concerned about Zika's threat to tourism, which could compound the island's vast economic challenges.

One friend grew indignant when I mentioned writing this piece. "You're a journalist," she said. "You have a responsibility not to perpetuate hysteria."

When I got sick, I didn't consider going to a doctor in Puerto Rico. The economic crisis has made medical care unpredictable, and the waits are long. When I sought treatment for allergic reactions earlier in my stay, doctors refused my corporate health insurance and demanded cash.

Instead, I waited a few days to see Dr. Wallace during my visit to New York. I was his second potential Zika patient, though the first ultimately tested negative for the virus.

Eight days after my blood sample was submitted, a woman from the city health department called.

Have you heard from your doctor? she asked.

"No."

"Oh?" she said. "You haven't spoken to your doctor at all?"

I broke a long pause, saying, "Feel free to let the cat out of the bag."

"Well," she said, "you tested positive for Zika."

The way it is supposed to work, the results are sent to the patient's doctor in time to break the news before the city "interviewer" calls to address public health concerns. But Dr. Jay Varma, deputy commissioner of the New York City Health Department, acknowledged that doesn't always happen.

MIXED REACTIONS

Some friends in Puerto Rico teased me when they learned I had Zika. Many of them had experienced chikungunya or dengue, and had stories about months of muscle pain or weeks in bed. Friends from the states, on the other hand, showed grave concern, offering thoughts, prayers and condolences. Some kept their distance for weeks. A few questioned whether it was safe for me to be around babies.

The evidence shows Zika clears the bloodstream quickly, and the virus doesn't spread through casual interactions.

Julie and I weren't quite sure how to react. We didn't take it too seriously at first. I posted a glamour-shot selfie on Facebook with the caption: "This is the face of a man with Zika."

As the weeks passed, it became clear that Julie and I were also a little rattled - and not fully on the same page. She canceled a planned long weekend visit to Puerto Rico. She wanted to minimize her exposure to Zika and arranged instead for us to meet in Florida.

This disappointed me. I had hoped to show her my new favorite places on the island. I clung stubbornly to the view that Zika fears were largely overblown. She reminded me that, given the unknowns about Zika's impact on pregnancy, I was in no position to call the shots.

"Try to see it from a woman's perspective," she said.

We have heard a lot of different things about Zika, even from doctors, and she doesn't totally trust the idea that the virus is manageable with the current medical advice.

What if Zika poses a threat for months or years after infection? If so, could that jeopardize our future plans to start a family? What if we got pregnant before we planned to?

We've had to manage our different anxieties over the "what ifs" of Zika.

FOR SCIENCE

There's plenty the experts are still figuring out, and that has been reflected in the shifting opinions about my case.

Ingrid Rabe, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told me Zika generally lasts a few days. While she couldn't address my specific case, she speculated that a return of symptoms like mine could indicate the presence of a second virus.

A few weeks later, Dr. Varma told me it was possible, in severe cases, for symptoms to last longer or recur.

Of three acquaintances in Puerto Rico who developed Zika, all have complained, like me, of lingering health problems, in one case for longer than a month.

Two weeks into my infection, Dr. Wallace couldn't tell me whether I remained at risk for Guillain-Barre. The city health interviewer, after consulting with doctors, told me the paralyzing condition would most likely have set in within days of Zika infection, so I was probably out of the woods.

Again, the information shifted over time. The CDC's Rabe later told me it could take "a few weeks" for Guillain-Barre to appear. So far, I haven't had any symptoms consistent with Guillain-Barre, and here's hoping it stays that way.

Guidance on sex lacked precision as well. The city health interviewer recommended we "use condoms every time" for six months, reflecting CDC guidelines.

When I asked whether Zika can spread via saliva or oral sex, the city health interviewer didn't answer directly. She said it can spread via "sexual activity," and that saliva is "currently not being tested." Rabe later told me "there's been no evidence" that saliva can spread Zika.

The city health interviewer asked if I would join a CDC study gauging how long Zika can be spread through semen and urine. I'm one of 140 participants, though protocol calls for up to 250.

The study is a bit awkward. But, as a writer always looking for a good story, I could not pass it up.

Every two weeks, a study test kit arrives by FedEx in a box with dauntingly detailed instructions on how to produce and package my samples, then overnight them back to the center's Colorado lab. I also answer a somewhat blush-inducing questionnaire about my recent sexual activity.

The CDC staffer assigned to my case sends cheery emails to let me know she has received my samples and sex report, an interaction that feels slightly too intimate. But I endure it in exchange for a $50 Visa gift card for each sample, and, more importantly, for the chance to learn and to contribute to science.

The downside: I don't learn my results until the study ends in December.

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