Sexually transmitted case of Zika reported in SD

Posted at 1:06 PM, Mar 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-25 22:12:10-04

The first confirmed case of sexual transmission of the Zika virus in the San Diego region was announced Friday by county health officials.

A woman contracted the disease last month after being intimate with a man who acquired the virus during a trip to Colombia, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency.

Both the man and woman fully recovered from the disease, which usually has only mild health effects, but is suspected to be the cause of severe birth defects in South America.

The San Diego-area woman was not pregnant.

"Travelers to countries where Zika is present should protect themselves from mosquito bites while they are abroad and prevent sexual transmission when they return," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer.

"Next to abstinence, condoms are the best prevention method against any sexually transmitted infections."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which confirmed the case via laboratory testing this week, has warned pregnant women not to travel to countries where Zika is present. The virus is suspected to cause microcephaly -- a condition where babies' heads and brains are smaller than normal -- in cases when mothers were infected during pregnancy.

Health officials say that around one in five people infected with the virus actually experience symptoms, which are usually mild and include fever, rash, joint pain or conjunctivitis, also known as "pink eye."

Zika is mostly spread to people by mosquitoes. No mosquito transmissions have been noted in the U.S., according to the CDC.

10News asked San Diego County Vector Control for some tips to protect yourself from mosquitoes.

First, remove all standing water from your home, but we’re not just talking about puddles. In fact, mosquitoes only need a half inch of water to breed. That’s enough to fill a bottle cap.

Next, when it comes to watering your plants, the experts suggest using rocks or sand to keep the bugs from reaching the water.

Also, if you’ve got a pond, ask your county about getting mosquito fish for free.

“They'll eat any type of mosquito,” said Dr. Nikos Gurfield with the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health.

Studies show mosquitos are attracted to sweat, higher body temperatures and carbon dioxide.

“The Zika mosquitoes. . .are more common during the day,” Gurfield said. 

Other research shows stinky feet and even beer could attract some mosquitos, though Gurfield questions the reliability of those studies.

Either way, it’s just a little advice to keep the biters at bay.

“It's much better just to take precautions,” Gurfield said.

He points out tried and true methods work the best: long sleeves, bright colors, and bug repellent.

In fact, the EPA has an online tool to help you pick the best bug spray.