California health experts are warning pregnant women to avoid traveling to places where there is a high risk of contracting Zika virus.
Since 2015, 52 Californians have contracted the virus while traveling to other countries, according to the California Department of Public Health. Of those cases, 13 have been pregnant women.
Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious disease at UC Davis Medical Center, says the virus isn't worrisome for most people who contract the disease.
But he says the virus in pregnant women is linked to a birth defect known as microcephaly. The condition results in incomplete brain development and abnormal smallness of the head.
“So, this tragedy then results in the children being born prone to developmental delay, intellectual disabilities, seizures and they may have hearing and eye problems also,” Blumberg says.
The Sacramento County Health Department is working with Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito Vector Control District, the California Department of Public Health and health care providers to monitor and report any cases of Zika virus.
Officials from each other organizations joined Sacramento Congresswoman Doris Matsui during a press conference at UC Davis Medical Center Friday about Zika virus.
Matsui says she wants to make sure Sacramento residents know the best practices to stay safe and healthy throughout mosquito season.
“The bottom line is that we need to act swiftly, provide our states and localities with the right amount of funding and equip our families with the best information so they can stay safe,” Matsui says.
Gary Goodman, manager of Sacramento-Yolo Vector Control District, says the aedes aegypti mosquito known to carry Zika virus hasn't been found in Sacramento or Yolo County, but there are established colonies of the mosquito in Fresno, Madera and San Mateo.
He also says West Nile virus was recently found in local mosquitoes.
"Try to protect yourself from being bitten by mosquitoes. Don't breed mosquiotes in your own yard by dumping any standing water so you're not contributing to the problem," Goodman says.
Women of childbearing age may need to avoid travel to Zika endemic areas such as Puerto Rico, Brazil and Mexico, according to several officials at the press conference.
They also suggested using insect repellents such as DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus to avoid zika and other diseases transmitted by mosquitoes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 618 cases of Zika virus in the US since 2015.