LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County health officials again warned residents on Wednesday to take precautions against mosquito bites, particularly if they’re planning to travel to areas experiencing outbreaks of the Zika virus.
They particularly warned pregnant women to avoid traveling altogether to affected areas, including Latin America, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico, since the virus can cause birth defects.
“The most important messages concern people who may be traveling to locations in the world were Zika virus outbreaks are currently occurring, and advising them on measures they need to take to protect their own health and prevent bringing the disease back here to Los Angeles County,” the county’s interim health officer, Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser said.
There has only been one confirmed case of the virus in Los Angeles County — in an adolescent girl who traveled to El Salvador in late November. Health officials said she has recovered.
Authorities are checking about 20 other potential cases of the virus, but none have been confirmed.
The only known case of transmission of the virus in the United States was confirmed this week in Texas, and it was done through sexual contact.
“The issue of sexual transmission is relatively small in terms of disease control,” Gunzenhauser said. “However, I know people are going to be very concerned about that. So if an individual does travel and they think may have been exposed and they might have symptoms that they think could be Zika, I think it’s a prudent decision they could consider whether or not they want to wear a condom or some other type of barrier to prevent transmitting.”
The primary method of transmitting the disease is via the Aedes mosquito, infestations of which have been found in the San Gabriel Valley and eastern parts of the county. Although transmission of the virus is unlikely, health officials said they still want everyone to take proactive steps to eliminate mosquitoes and protect against bites.
“Homeowners, residents and business owners must take responsibility for mosquito breeding conditions on their own property and their own yards,” said Truc Dever, general manager of the Los Angeles County Vector Control District. “This is the only way we’ll be able to combat and defeat these invasive species of mosquitoes.”
Health officials advised travelers to use bug spray approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants or clothing specially treated to avoid mosquito bites.
The disease has been linked to miscarriages and microcephaly — which can cause serious developmental delays and babies born with abnormally small heads — though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website notes that additional studies of such reports, initially out of Brazil, are needed.
For those who are not pregnant, about one in five will get sick, according to the CDC. Symptoms, including fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, typically begin two to seven days after being bitten. Some people experience no symptoms. People can reduce the spread of the Aedes mosquito — and the risk of other mosquito-borne diseases such as chikungunya and dengue — by eliminating standing water around their homes where mosquitoes may breed.
Updates of affected countries and traveler health notices are posted on the CDC website at www.cdc.gov and more information on the virus can be found at http://publichealth.lacounty.gov.
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