A climate more hospitable to mosquitoes is resulting in two disquieting reports from California’s Department of Public Health involving Zika and West Nile viruses. On Thursday, the birth of two infants in the state with Zika-related microcephaly was reported, and on Friday, the department announced the death of a Sacramento County senior citizen from West Nile virus.
Fewer than one percent of the population develop symptoms to a bite from a mosquito carrying West Nile, which has been detected in 30 California counties. Generally it is people over the age of 50 and those with diabetes or hypertension who are more likely to develop complications, according to the state’s Public Health department. Santa Barbara has not proved to have infected mosquitoes, and of its three contiguous counties, only Kern has tested positive for infected mosquitoes and reports two human cases in 2016.
The two women who gave birth to California’s microcephalic babies developed Zika infections after they visited a country with the virus. Their locations and identities are not being disclosed for privacy reasons; the infants pose no health risk to their communities, California Public Health stated.
The virus was recently found to be transmitted by male and female sexual partners, and the heightened concern over travel now extends to men and women. The aggressive day-biting insects are established in the border cities of Tijuana, Mexicali, and Tecate. Recent reports indicate disease-carrying mosquitoes are in Florida, as well. Outbreaks are reported in 44 countries and territories, including many South American and Caribbean nations.
By the end of July, Zika infection was confirmed in 21 pregnant women in California, and travel-associated infections were found among 114 residents of 22 counties. Santa Barbara County is not yet among them.