Zika possible in San Diego if Tijuana River Valley not cleaned up, IB mayor says

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SAN YSIDRO, Calif. -- The Tijuana River Valley could become a Zika virus stronghold unless it's cleaned up immediately, according to Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina.

The valley is already home to several species of mosquitoes, including the Asian Tiger mosquito, considered to be the primary carrier of the Zika virus.

The virus affects pregnant women, who deliver babies with head and brain abnormalities. So far, 4,000 cases have been reported, primarily in Brazil and other parts of Latin America.

Dedina, who is also the Executive Director of environmental conservation firm Wildcoast, insists the biggest problem are the thousands of tires strewn around the valley that accumulate water and act as breeding grounds for the virus-carrying mosquitoes.

"Those breeding grounds are areas with lots of waste water, tires, and plastic and we seem to have that in profusion here, in addition to the two species of mosquito -- yellow fever mosquito and Asian tiger mosquito -- that can transmit Zika," Dedina told FOX 5.

Dedina said that unless a massive cleanup is launched in the Tijuana River Valley, we could see Zika cases in San Diego and Tijuana.

"This can't be like Flint and it can't be like Brazil, where everyone knew what was happening and no one did anything about it," Dedina said. "We all know this is happening. We need to do something about it immediately."

It is estimated that every time it rains in the region, up to 5,000 tires wash down from Tijuana into the valley. Wildcoast has secured $100,000 to collect, shred and recycle tires in Mexico.

"It's a lot cheaper to clean them up in Mexico than it is to wait till they wash across the border and have them sit forever and become breeding grounds for Zika-breeding mosquitoes," Dedina said.

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