Zika virus poses no local danger, health officials say
SAN DIEGO — A San Diego County health official said Thursday that despite increasing public concern about the Zika virus, residents shouldn’t be concerned unless they’re traveling to a part of the world where the disease is being transmitted.
“That’s not currently in the United States, it’s not the border region with Mexico,” Dr. Eric McDonald, the county’s medical director of epidemiology and immunization services, told City News Service.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a list of 24 overseas countries and territories where the mosquito-borne virus has been found, including Brazil, Puerto Rico and Samoa.
Mexico is on the list, but Zika has been limited to the southern part of that country, he said.
McDonald said the disease isn’t believed to be fatal to the sick person, but “a very strong circumstantial” link has been made to a condition called microcephaly in which babies with mothers sickened by Zika virus are born with small heads and have a shorter life expectancy.
The CDC has issued a travel advisory for pregnant women planning to travel to an affected country.
The county Health and Human Services Agency said two cases of the virus have occurred in San Diego County — one in July 2014, a traveler who returned from the Cook Islands, and the other last July in someone who visited Christmas Island.
McDonald said both were treated as outpatients and recovered within one week.
“These people knew going there that there was an ongoing outbreak, and when they came back, each of these two people developed symptoms of fever and rash,” McDonald said. “They went to their doctors and were tested for the virus and were found to have it.”
He said specialized testing is needed to diagnose Zika, since patients feel the same as with other tropical diseases, like dengue, with fever, joint pain and a rash.
The county HHSA said its Epidemiology Program has provided information to several callers from the public in the past several days about Zika virus.