With news that two infants were born in California with microcephaly, the birth defect caused by Zika, Long Beach health officials are issuing the same warnings to Long Beach residents that they’ve issued all year.
“The same travel advisory is in place for pregnant women,” said John Holguin, the epidemiologist supervisor at the City of Long Beach. “If they must travel, they should take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes.. That’s the same precaution as those traveling to a specific area of Florida [Miami].”
Holguin also stressed that partners of pregnant women or women seeking to become pregnant avoid the travel areas and to protect themselves with condoms, as the disease can be sexually transmitted.
The only cases of the virus being locally acquired have occurred recently in Miami-Dade County (14 cases), and Palm Beach County (one case), according to the Miami Herald.
All cases in California, including the two women, were acquired while traveling overseas, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). A total of 24 cases have been reported in Los Angeles County, all involving people who traveled to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
In a May interview, Nelson Kerr of the Long Beach Health Department said it was important to note the virus can only be spread sexually or through one specific species of mosquitoes: the Aedes (A. aegypti and A. albopictus). While this type of species appears sporadically in Long Beach, officials have been keeping a close watch and have not noted any recent appearances.
“We are out there every day looking for mosquitoes—we set traps every week,” said Kerr.
The CDC counts 1,825 residents with Zika in the US and DC and 5,548 in US territories, as of August 3. Of those infected, 479 in the US and DC are pregnant.
- Precautions to avoid contact with mosquitoes entirely have been outlined by the Health Department previously, and read as follows:
- Mosquitoes can breed in standing water. Eliminate standing water on your property by draining water in neglected ponds, birdbaths, fountains, buckets, old tires or anything that can hold water. Recycle water for outdoor use instead of using potable water.
- Use mosquito repellent containing DEET, Picaridin, or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. Residents should follow instructions on the label. Consult with your child’s pediatrician for appropriate concentrations of DEET to be used on children under the age of two years.
- Keep tight-fitting screens on doors and windows to prevent mosquitoes from entering homes and check to make sure your window screens are in good condition.
- Follow new restrictions and limit the watering of lawns and outdoor plants to Tuesdays and Saturdays, and avoid run off to gutters and around sprinklers.
Report dead birds and dead tree squirrels to the California Department of Health Services by calling 1.877.WNV.BIRD or online at www.westnile.ca.gov.
For further information, contact the City of Long Beach Health Department Vector Control Program at 562.570.4132.
City News Service contributed to this report.