The yellow fever mosquito
Courtesy Photo

Health officials confirmed on Thursday the first case of Zika virus infection in a Santa Barbara County resident. The resident is a pregnant female who contracted the virus during travel to Central America. To protect her privacy, officials said, further details about the case will not be released.

The spread of Zika occurs primarily though infected Aedes mosquitoes, specifically the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), which have not been found in Santa Barbara County, said Dr. Charity Dean, Santa Barbara County Health Officer. “There is currently no risk for contracting Zika virus in Santa Barbara County via infected mosquitoes.” Dean said the best ways to avoid the virus are to take precautions when travelling to areas with Zika, and when engaging in sexual contact with someone at risk for Zika infection.

There have been Zika virus outbreaks in Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, Mexico, and Central, and South America. In the last few weeks, 42 cases have been reported in Florida. Maps of affected areas can be found here.

Four out of five infected people will not show any symptoms, and almost all people with Zika get better without special treatment, Santa Barbara health officials explained. Common symptoms include fever, eye redness, achy joints, and a skin rash. The greatest concern is for unborn babies when the pregnant mother is infected. In these cases, the virus can cause microcephaly (small head syndrome), brain damage, and other birth defects. There is no vaccine to prevent Zika, although research is underway.


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