September 15, 2016
By Kimberlee Buck
Wednesday, September 7, Sacramento 54th assembly district representative Sebastian Ridley-Thomas invited the Los Angeles County Public Health Department, Greater LA County Vector Control District and the West LA County Vector Control District to join a telephone Town Hall regarding the spread of the Zika virus in the Los Angeles area.
The Town Hall also gave residents the opportunity to provide feedback by voicing concerns and challenges they face in the community.
“Zika is caused by a virus that people may get when they are bitten by a mosquito that is infected with Zika. It also can rarely be spread by sex from someone who is infected,” said Dr. Schwartz. “At this time, no mosquitos in LA County carry Zika virus. The only way for people to get infected is by traveling to an area where the infection is present in the mosquitos or sex with someone who has traveled to an area with infection,” said Dr. Schwartz.
“Friday, July 29, the Department of Public Health recorded 114 cases of Zika in our state. Last week, this number has more than doubled to 214 infections. 20 percent of those infected, roughly 64 people, have lived in Los Angeles County,” said Ridley-Thomas. “The spread of Zika has been classified as an international health emergency by the World Health Organization because of the progressive spread across the globe. This is cause for concern but not for fear. Those 241 infections reported by the California Department of Public Health have all been travel related and not been acquired locally.”
Here are symptoms of Zika virus:
2. Muscle or joint ache
3. Bumpy red rash
4. Red eyes
5. Or, no symptoms at all
“People who do have these symptoms could have another type of infection and therefore those who have traveled to an area where Zika is present and has these symptoms, would need to go to a doctor and have a laboratory test done to identify whether the infection is Zika or whether it is something else,” said Dr. Schwartz.
Although no mosquitos in LA County are currently carrying the Zika virus, the infection can still spread if someone who has Zika is bitten by a “local mosquito.”
“Zika illness is generally not severe and may only last for five days. Once your body fights off this infection, you get better and probably cannot get the infection again. Rarely people can develop more severe illness from Zika but these more serious cases are very rare.”
According to Dr. Schwartz, the virus can be severe if a woman is pregnant.
“Infection during pregnancy, may lead to the unborn baby becoming infected,” said Dr. Schwartz. “Infection of the unborn baby, will interfere with the development of the brain resulting in the baby being born with a small head. The virus can also cause vision and hearing loss in some babies.”
Women who are pregnant should not travel to the following places were Zika is being spread:
1. Central America
3. El Salvador
6. Mexico (generally Southern Mexico)
7. Dominican Republic
8. Puerto Rico
9. And other countries in Central and South America or Caribbean Island
Health officials are unclear on how the mosquitos arrived in California.
“We know that their eggs can be transported in used tires or in old plant pots and containers,” said General Manager of the LA County Greater Vector Control District Truc Dever.
According to the Dever, these types of mosquitos are tiny black and white and very aggressive and they can also transmit other diseases like chikungunya virus and dengue virus.
Residents limit the breeding around the home by “tipping and tossing.”
“Tip means to dump out any water in a container and toss it to the trash bin or outside in the garage,” said Dever.” Anything that can hold water including recyclables, buckets, even the tiniest amount of tap water left in a bottled cap can become a problem if it has been left standing for too long.”
Dever also encourages residents to work with their neighbors to maintain a healthy backyard environment by eliminating any standing water that may be on their property.
Residents who are traveling can avoid the Zika virus by wearing long sleeves and pants, staying a place that has screens or air conditioning to keep mosquitos out and wearing insect repellant with deet.
“The best prevention is to have good information, and we have a collective responsible as neighbors to remain vigilant and to identify troubling signs to prevent the spread of Zika,” said Ridley-Thomas.
For more information on the Zika virus or if you have traveled out of the country to any of the places listed above, please visit your primary care doctor.