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City Manager's Office
City Manager's Office
Press Contact: Matthai Chakko, (510) 981-7008

BERKELEY HEALTH OFFICER CAUTIONS ABOUT TRAVEL TO ZIKA-AFFECTED AREAS

Berkeley, California (Thursday, March 24, 2016) - As foreign travelers return to the Bay Area infected with the Zika virus, our region’s climate makes the risk of a local outbreak extremely low even as travelers’ experiences emphasize the need to be careful about where to visit.

Use travel advisories to guide where you travel to other countries. That's especially true if you are pregnant or intending to be. Although Zika results in mild, if any, symptoms in the vast majority of infected people, it has raised concerns due to cases of birth defects or temporary paralysis in Zika-affected areas.

Those who cannot avoid travel should take precautions, such as approved mosquito repellents, screens, mosquito nets, and clothing that covers as much of the body as possible.

There is evidence Zika can be sexually transmitted from men to women, posing a risk to a developing fetus. Men who have recently traveled to Zika-affected regions should properly use condoms. If their partner is pregnant, condoms should be used for the entire pregnancy.

These recommendations from Berkeley Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman, the California Department of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  come as infection rates continue to grow in Zika-affected areas, such as Central and South America, the Caribbean and some parts of the Pacific.

"The most effective strategy to prevent Zika infection among local residents involves being safe about travel," said Berreman. "This is especially important for women who are pregnant or are intending to be. Those who do travel can take precautions, and men who return from Zika-affected areas should use condoms when having sex."

All cases of Zika virus infection in California have been related to travel to Zika-affected regions, and travel-related cases are certain to continue.  There has been no local transmission of the disease in California. 

Approximately 80 percent of those infected with the Zika virus show no symptoms.  When symptoms occur, they include rash, fever, joint pains, and red eyes--and they resolve without treatment.  Zika virus is of concern because it has recently been associated with a birth defect called "microcephaly," in which babies are born with unusually small heads and brains, and with an increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome, which causes temporary paralysis.

The vectors transmitting Zika abroad are Aedes mosquitoes, egypti and albopictus, which are not native to the Bay Area, have no established population here, and, therefore, make local transmission risk extremely low.

In Berkeley and throughout the Bay Area, residents are being tested regularly, and many of those test results are pending. Berkeley Public Health is working with local health care providers to facilitate prompt and appropriate testing of individuals at risk for Zika virus infection. Testing is performed in coordination with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and may take several weeks to complete.  

The Zika virus has been confirmed in twelve Californians so far in 2016, as of March 18. All contracted the virus after traveling to Zika-affected areas.

If an individual is concerned about Zika virus, he or she should talk to his/her medical provider. There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika virus infection. When traveling to a Zika-affected area, the only way to prevent infection is to take precautions against mosquito bites.

If you have concerns about mosquito bites, breeding or standing water, contact the Alameda County Mosquito Abatement District. You can report incidents online or by calling 510-783-7744. Should there be a Zika case in Alameda County, the abatement district will increase surveillance in that area to ensure that invasive Aedes mosquitoes are not present. All mosquitoes require standing water to breed so drain or cover any standing water on your property to reduce the chance of mosquitoes breeding in your area.

This is an evolving situation, and we continue to work with all those partners to ensure that our response evolves with it.

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