The first confirmed case of sexually transmitted Zika infection in Los Angeles County has been identified, health officials said Thursday.
The case involves a Los Angeles County man who traveled to Mexico and returned home, infecting his girlfriend with the disease. It has set off alarm bells among health officials because of the catastrophic birth defects associated with Zika in region’s of the world experiencing outbreaks. Los Angeles health officials are warning couples to use condoms and for expecting mothers to abstain from unprotected sex.
“A male resident, who traveled to Mexico, developed symptomatic Zika infection in early November,” Los Angeles County Department of Public Health statement said. “His female partner, who did not travel, subsequently developed symptomatic Zika infection after his return to Los Angeles County,” the DPI statement said.
Zika can be transmitted by sexual contact or via mosquito bites. Women infected with Zika virus have increased risk of miscarriage and giving birth to babies with microcephaly or brain abnormalities. Symptoms of Zika are fever, joint pain, rash, red eyes and muscle pain beginning three to seven days after being infected.
Illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting up to a week. Most people who are infected have no symptoms at all. People are rarely hospitalized or die from this disease. Aedeses mosquitoes, the mosquitoes that can carry Zika, have been found in many areas of Los Angeles County.
In Los Angeles County, vector control agencies routinely test mosquitoes that can carry Zika in LA County.
“There have been no cases of Zika transmitted by local mosquitoes in Los Angeles County,” the DPI statement said.
Since 2015, there have been 122 cases of Zika infection reported in the county, out of which 121 have been acquired from the bite of an infected mosquito during travel to areas where Zika is occurring.
“This case is a reminder to take precautions during sex or avoid sex if you or your partner have traveled to an area with risk of Zika,” said Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, M.D., the Interim Health Officer for Los Angeles County.
“Sexual transmission of Zika can occur with or without symptoms,” Gunzenhauser said. “Given the risk for birth defects, the greatest concern is transmission of the virus to women who are pregnant or attempting to become pregnant.”
To prevent sexual transmission of Zika, couples should use condoms or abstain from sex for six months after a male partner has been exposed to or diagnosed with Zika, and for eight weeks after a female partner has been exposed to or diagnosed with Zika, the DPI said.
Also, pregnant women should use condoms or abstain from sex for the entire duration of their pregnancy.
“Transmission of Zika virus is still ongoing in Mexico, Latin America and other regions of the world,” the DPI statement said.
Travelers should take precautions against Zika during travel by avoiding mosquito bites including using Environmental Protection Agency approved mosquito repellant and wearing long sleeves and pants, and also for three weeks after returning to prevent infecting local mosquitoes.
People can reduce the spread of Aedeses mosquitoes by eliminating all sources of standing water around their homes where mosquitoes can breed, including flower pot saucers, old tires and buckets. Mosquito problems can be reported to local vector control districts.
For more information on Zika virus, visit: www.publichealth.lacounty.gov.
City News Service and Patch staffer Paige Austin contributed to this report. Photo: In this Sept. 27, 2016 photo, Solange Ferreira holds her son Jose Wesley Campos as family friend Sandra Souza, right, holds his nasogastric feeding tube during his 1-year birthday party at his home in Bonito, Pernambuco state, Brazil. Learning how to feed is the Jose’s latest struggle as medical problems mount for him and many other infants born with small heads to mothers infected with the Zika virus in Brazil. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)