Long Beach Health Official Downplays Domestic Zika Risk, But Cautions Pregnant Travelers

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With the announcement of the first documented case of the Zika virus appearing in Los Angeles County earlier this week, a Long Beach health official weighed in on the actual risk of contracting the virus in an interview with the Post.

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Epidemiologist Supervisor John Holguin, of Long Beach’s Department of Health, said residents were virtually at zero risk of contracting the virus in Long Beach. However, he said all residents should take precautions to protect themselves from mosquitoes, as they are at risk of other, domestic mosquito-borne diseases.

“Zika is not in the U.S.—it’s only been spread in other countries,” said Holguin.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the first Zika case to appear in the county was contracted by a young girl who had traveled to El Salvador. 

“Zika is not person-to-person transmitted,” said Holguin, explaining that individuals who remain in the country aren’t opening themselves up to the disease. “It’s only transmitted by the Aedes species of mosquito,” he said, which is found in the affected regions of Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia.

The disease has been spreading “explosively” throughout the Americas this year, according to World Health Organization officials in a New York Times story posted Thursday. While most infected by the virus don’t experience symptoms, some do experience a fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes.

The disease is especially dangerous to pregnant women, as those affected by the disease appear to have given birth to babies with microcephaly, a condition in which the head is abnormally small. Health officials believe the rise in babies carrying the condition is related to the rise in Zika cases. Pregnant women should take note, said Holguin. 

“Women who are pregnant or are trying to be pregnant should avoid zones where Zika is occurring,” he said. 



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