Sonoma County health officials confirm first positive case of Zika virus

This 2006 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a female Aedes aegypti mosquito in the process of acquiring a blood meal from a human host.

SANTA ROSA, Calif. – The Sonoma County Department of Health Services on Thursday confirmed its first case of Zika, a virus known to cause microcephaly, a severe birth defect in which babies are born with abnormally small heads.

County health officials would not identify the individual except to say that the patient contracted the virus while on vacation. Mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus have not been detected in Sonoma County and there is no risk for Zika to spread here.

“While traveling in Central America the Sonoma County resident was bit by mosquitoes,” the Sonoma County Department of Health Services said in a release.

Zika can cause dramatic birth defects, including babies born with unusually small heads. Currently, Zika is circulating in a number of countries, mostly Latin America, the Caribbean and some of the Pacific Islands.

The virus is spread through mosquito bites. Sexual transmission of Zika has also been observed and can also be spread through sexual contact and from a mother to her unborn baby.

“We anticipate more cases. Even though there is currently no risk for local transmission, our residents could be exposed to Zika virus through travel, sexual contact with travelers and from mothers to their unborn babies” stated Sonoma County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Karen Holbrook. “We want our residents to understand the risks and to take steps to protect themselves, their sexual partners and their babies.”

In most people the illness is mild. The most common signs and symptoms of Zika virus infection are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis.

“Although there is no evidence in California of mosquitoes carrying Zika virus or of illnesses associated with the Aedes mosquito, people should always take steps to avoid mosquito bites,” San Mateo County county health officer Dr. Scott Morrow said after announcing the Peninsula’s first Zika case on April 1. That person became infected while traveling abroad.

Steps include wearing insect repellent and removing standing water around homes and properties to keep mosquitoes from breeding, according to Morrow.

The list of countries with active Zika spread is changing each week so please visit the CDC’s website for the most updated information.

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