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The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are alerting the public of the potential to contract Zika virus while traveling abroad. Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites, similar to West Nile virus or dengue fever. While illness is usually mild, and severe disease requiring hospitalization uncommon, there is a possible link between Zika virus infection in pregnant women and subsequent birth defects. CDC is working with other public health officials to monitor Zika virus transmission and potential links between Zika virus infection during pregnancy and birth defects. 

What is Zika?

Zika is a disease caused by the Zika virus that is spread to people through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil. Since the discovery, there has been an outbreak in Brazil with reports of pregnant women giving birth to babies with birth defects and pregnancy complications.

What are the symptoms of Zika?

About one in five people infected with Zika virus will get sick. For people who get sick, the illness is usually mild. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. Symptoms typically begin 2 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The most common symptoms of Zika virus include:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Joint Pain
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)

Who is at risk of being infected?

Anyone who is living in or traveling to an area where Zika virus is found and has not already been infected with Zika virus is at risk for infection, including pregnant women.

Does Zika virus infection in pregnant women cause birth defects?

There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly (a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age) and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. Knowledge of the link between Zika and these outcomes is evolving, but until more is known, CDC recommends special precautions for the following groups:

Women who are pregnant (in any trimester):

Consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. If you must travel to one of these areas, talk to your doctor first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip.

Women who are trying to become pregnant:

Before you travel, talk to your doctor about your plans to become pregnant and the risk of Zika virus infection. Strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip. Zika can be passed through sex from a person who has Zika to his or her partners. Zika can be passed through sex, even if the person does not have symptoms at the time.

What can you do to prevent Zika?

There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to avoid being bitten. Protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites.

  • Check your yard weekly for water-filled containers.
  • Throw away or recycle water-holding containers that are not needed.
  • If empty containers or large objects, such as boats or old appliances must be stored, they should be covered, turned over or placed under a roof that does not allow them to fill with water.
  • Clean and scrub bird baths and pet-watering dishes weekly and dump the water from overflow dishes under potted plants and flower pots. Check that gutters are not holding water and cover rain barrels with tight screening so that mosquitoes cannot enter.
  • Fill tree holes and other cavities in plants with sand or soil.
  • Check for hidden bodies of water such as wells, septic tanks, manholes or clogged drains, etc.
  • Prevent sexual transmission of Zika by using a condom or not having sex.

Contact Vector Control at 442-265-1888 if you detect unusual numbers of mosquitoes or you are being bitten by mosquitoes during the day.

What is the Public Health Department doing to prevent Zika in Imperial County?

Right now there are no cases of Zika in Imperial County. The Department is taking safety measures to prevent and stop its spread in Imperial County if a case is confirmed here. The following activities are taking place:

  • Public health staff is working with doctors, clinics and hospitals in the County to assist clinicians with identifying suspect cases and to ensure that they report cases to Public Health.
  • Public health staff is working with community groups and organizations to share information about Zika virus and mosquito prevention.
  • Vector staff is conducting surveillance and mosquito abatement throughout the county.

Key Points:

  • Zika virus has been reported in returning travelers and local transmission of Zika has been reported in Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and America Samoa.
  • No vaccine exists to prevent Zika virus disease.
  • Zika is preventable by protecting yourself and family from mosquito bites.
  • Women who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant and their male partners should postpone travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.

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Protect yourself and your baby from zika