A woman is the first person in Fresno County confirmed to have contracted the Zika virus through sexual transmission, county health officials said Friday.
The public health department said the unidentified woman got the virus from a partner who became infected while traveling.
The virus is transmitted to humans primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. But Zika also can be spread through unprotected sex with a person who has the virus.
Most people who get the virus do not get ill. But infection during pregnancy can cause a serious defect in the brain of a developing fetus called microcephaly, as well as other significant birth defects.
Dr. Ken Bird, health officer for Fresno County, said the Fresno County woman is not pregnant.
Nationwide as of Jan. 10, there have been 1,347 cases of possible Zika virus infection in pregnant women, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Bird said the Fresno County woman’s partner became ill about a month ago and she fell ill sometime later. Neither was seriously sickened by the Zika virus. The infection in the woman’s partner was diagnosed by a doctor who had asked about travel history and had him tested for the virus, Bird said. Symptoms include a rash, fever, joint pain and red eyes.
I’m really concerned now with the people traveling back and forth.
Steve Mulligan, manager, Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District
Bird said that anyone who has been exposed to the virus needs to wait before attempting a pregnancy. Men should wait a minimum of six months to attempt conception, and women should wait a minimum of eight weeks before becoming pregnant.
The woman’s infection also highlights the need for people to protect themselves from mosquito bites when traveling. People should wear mosquito repellent for three weeks upon returning home to prevent spreading the virus.
Steve Mulligan, manager of the Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District, said about 40 mosquito control officials from throughout the central San Joaquin Valley and Northern California were meeting Friday at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the Zika virus, was the topic of discussion. The mosquito has been spreading in the central San Joaquin Valley since 2013 and is particularly widespread in Clovis and parts of Fresno.
“We’re trying to plan for this next season,” Mulligan said.
Fortunately, the woman’s infection occurred in January, he said. “This is the off-season for mosquitoes. They’re not breeding this time of the year. It’s too cold.”
But Mulligan said the Aedes aegypti mosquito has been known to follow people indoors and find water containers to breed in, even in the winter. “We try to get people to recognize if there is biting indoors to try and protect themselves from mosquito bites and try to eliminate any water sources or containers that might be providing breeding sites.”
Travel exposure to the Zika virus, however, is an ongoing issue. “I’m really concerned now with the people traveling back and forth,” he said. “We could see an uptick in infections in Mexico where we have a lot of travel.”
Meanwhile, influenza continues to rage in California. On Friday, the California Department of Public Health reported that a child in Riverside County died from the flu, the first child victim this season. As of last week, flu had killed 14 victims statewide, the department said.
State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith said influenza activity is more severe than last year because of the higher numbers of hospitalizations and outbreaks statewide.