Health Officials Announce First Zika Virus Case Confirmed in Riverside County

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zikaRIVERSIDE COUNTY — A man who traveled outside the United States and returned home to the southwest area of Riverside County has been diagnosed with Zika Virus, marked the Riverside area’s first public health Zika diagnosis, officials announced Tuesday.

According to the Riverside University Health System-Public Health, the 50-year-old man recently traveled to the Caribbean. He is expected to make a full recovery.

“County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser emphasized the infection was not locally acquired and the patient, who lives in southwest Riverside County, likely became infected during his travels to the Dominican Republic, where Zika-infected mosquitoes are present,” the agency said in a news release.

“While Riverside County is one of the last counties in Southern California to have a confirmed case, we always knew it would happen eventually,” said Kaiser. “We will continue working with our partners in health care and vector control to protect our residents, especially pregnant women and the unborn, who are most at risk.”

The Imperial Valley has also been Zika virus free according to Imperial County Public Health media advisor, Maria Peinado. The county is making efforts to inform its residents of the danger of the virus, how it is contracted and how it gets passed along.

The county’s public health department will be holding a bilingual town hall July 14, at 6:00 p.m. at the IID Condit Auditorium in El Centro.

“We really want the public to show up and ask questions,” Peinado said. “They can submit questions before hand, by email, or just as questions during the meeting, but we want everyone to be well informed about the Zika virus.”

Although Peinado said the Valley has been virus free, five people have been tested and their blood work sent to Sacramento for analysis. All five people were referred to the public health department by their doctors. The local medical field is actively looking for patients that might have brought the virus back to the Valley after traveling in at-risk countries. Each person tested had been out of the country and visited an area infested with mosquitos that carry the virus. Results take weeks to get back, Peinado said.

The Zika virus is typically spread by mosquitos. The type of mosquito that is known to transmit the disease, Aedes agypti, has been found in Imperial County, and vector control has been spraying parts of the region to prevent them from populating more.

The virus can also be passed from a mother to her unborn child, and has been linked to microcephaly, which can cause serious developmental delays and babies born with abnormally small heads.

There is no medication for people who come down with Zika, nor a vaccine.

“If you are returning from a Zika area, which includes the Caribbean, most of Central and South America and some Pacific islands, wear insect repellant both there and also for at least three weeks when you return here to reduce the risk of spreading it locally,” officials said.

Imperial County health officials also offered up the following advice to prevent mosquito bites:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and shoes.
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellants and apply according to the label instructions.
  • Stay and sleep in places with air conditioning and screened windows.

Prevent standing water in your yard by disposing of discarded tires, cans, plastic containers; drain standing water from pool or hot tub covers; turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use; keep drains, ditches and culverts clean of trash and weeds so water will drain properly; and clean gutters to ensure they drain properly.

For more information contact Maria Peinado at mpeinado@co.imperial.ca.us or call 442-265-1348. The Zika Virus townhall will be July 14 at 6:00 p.m. at the IID Condit Auditorium in El Centro.