A pregnant woman from Napa County has tested positive for Zika virus after traveling to a Central American country, county health officials confirmed Wednesday.
The unidentified woman traveled during the last three months and is not currently showing signs of Zika virus, according to a Napa County news release. The county is recommending that any pregnant woman who has traveled to one of the 14 countries where the Zika outbreak is ongoing talk to her doctor about being tested.
Since the Zika outbreak began in Brazil last spring, thousands of babies have been born with microcephaly – a neurological condition that causes a small head size and a range of developmental side effects. Researchers suspect that Zika infection among pregnant women is causing the microcephaly spike.
After the Napa County woman’s doctor suggested she get tested, her blood samples were sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Cara Mae Wooledge, health education specialist with the Napa County Health and Human Services Agency. Wooledge would not say which country the woman had visited.
She warned pregnant women to take precautions if they travel to Zika-affected countries, which are mainly in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“Our primary message is for women who have traveled there, especially pregnant women, to work with their health care providers,” she said. “We want people to know that the best way to prevent Zika virus is to delay travel to those countries if they are pregnant or planning on getting pregnant.”
This is the first confirmed Zika case in Napa County. Yolo County confirmed a Zika case in early February but would not disclose the person’s identity or gender.
On Feb. 17, the CDC confirmed nine cases of pregnant women in the U.S. infected with the Zika virus. All of them had contracted the virus while traveling outside the country. Of those nine, two women miscarried, two terminated their pregnancies, three had healthy babies and one delivered a baby with microcephaly. Another woman was still pregnant in mid-February.
There have been 10 CDC-confirmed cases of Zika virus in California since 2015, according to a California Department of Public Health report updated on Feb. 26. Due to patient confidentiality, the state could not reveal which counties those cases occurred in or whether any of the confirmed patients were pregnant at the time of diagnosis.
Zika is most commonly transmitted by the aedes mosquito but has been transmitted via blood and sexual fluids. To date, no local transmissions of the Zika virus have occurred in the United States. There have been 107 travel-associated cases, according to a Feb. 24 CDC update.
The CDC issued a statement Friday recommending that pregnant women not travel to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil this summer.
Dr. Robert Oldham, public health director for Placer County, said pregnant women with plans to travel should talk to their physicians about delaying their plans, or protecting themselves if they go abroad.
“Clearly there’s a concern about a potential link between infection with the Zika virus and microcephaly and other birth defects,” Oldham said. “There’s still not very good information, but we want women to at least consider being informed and if they decide to travel, be extra vigilant about mosquito bites.”