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Experts respond to concerns about Zika virus at Sacramento event

Video: Zika community forum in Sacramento

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A panel of experts spoke Saturday about the prevention and transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus at a community forum hosted by the UC Davis Health System.

In February, Yolo County had one confirmed case of the virus. The infected, unnamed person had been traveling outside the U.S. and made a full recovery, The Sacramento Bee reported.

The California Department of Public Health website reports that, as of Friday, there have been three confirmed cases of the virus in California this year and 10 in the state since 2013. Zika is transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Fever, rash, reddening of eyes and joint pain are common symptoms.

“The virus and the mosquito are found mainly in tropical and subtropical areas, and recently there have been outbreaks in Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Dr. Olivia Kasirye, Sacramento County public health officer. There is no vaccine or medication available to prevent or treat Zika, Kasirye said.

The speakers at the event at the UC Davis MIND Institute auditorium in Sacramento clarified misunderstandings the attendees had about the effects of Zika on babies and information about sexual transmission.

Gary Goodman, general manager of the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito & Vector Control District, said mosquito species that carry Zika have colonized in Southern California and have been discovered in Madera, Fresno and San Mateo counties.

“We have been testing for four years in Sacramento,” Goodman said.

Chris Barker, an epidemiologist specializing in surveillance and control of mosquito-borne viruses with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, said, “The sexual transmission aspects have had a lot of attraction, certainly with the media. That’s new for many of us who have studied mosquito-borne viruses.”

Véronique Taché, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at UC Davis Medical Center, said male partners who travel to infected areas can carry Zika in their semen.

“They haven’t been able to say for how long it lasts, so for now, the recommendation for any partner should be using condoms throughout the remainder of a woman’s pregnancy,” Taché said.

Microcephaly, abnormal smallness of the head, is present in developing fetuses that come in contact with Zika, Taché said. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website said microcephaly can lead to vision, development and balance issues.

Taché said women who are expecting to get pregnant should not travel to infected areas, and that they should tell their health care providers as soon as they become pregnant if they do travel to such areas. It takes about two weeks for test results to be available, Taché said.

David Schrimmer, chief of obstetrics at UC Davis Medical Center, said infection in the fetus is uncommon.

“The one note that I would like to add is really that of reassurance. If you think about it, most pregnant women are exposed to viruses and, amazingly, the fetus is most of the time protected,” he said. “Just because someone is potentially exposed does not necessarily mean that the fetus will be affected. The fetus is wonderfully protected.”

Barker said the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is potentially where the outbreak occurred.

“In relation to where the World Cup venues were, we see a lot of cases,” Barker said.

For more information about the Zika virus, go to www.cdc.gov.

Jessica Hice: 916-321-1550

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