In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil. The outbreak in Brazil led to reports of Guillain-Barre (paralysis) syndrome and pregnant women giving birth to babies with birth defects and poor pregnancy outcomes. Zika is a virus that is spread through mosquito bites. Infection generally causes mild symptoms of fever, joint pain, rash, and red eyes. Recently, an increase in the number of babies born with the birth defect microcephaly was noted in Brazil. Microcephaly means a small skull circumference. Research is ongoing to understand this connection.
Currently Zika virus is circulating in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as Puerto Rico. The two largest affected countries are Mexico and Brazil. Zika virus is not circulating in San Francisco, California, or the United States at this time, and the risk of a local epidemic is extremely low. Out of an abundance of caution, CDC has advised pregnant women not to travel to Zika-affected countries, and is also recommending testing returning travelers for Zika virus in certain limited circumstances.
SFDPH released a Health Advisory for local medical providers regarding Zika virus on 1/22/16. The SFDPH Communicable Disease Control Unit has been fielding inquiries from medical providers regarding Zika virus.
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. The mosquito species that spreads Zika virus, called Aedes, is mostly found in tropical countries. It is the same mosquito that spreads other viruses such as dengue fever. Aedes mosquitos have been detected in California, mostly in Southern California, but also in very limited areas in San Mateo and Alameda counties. No spread of any disease has been linked to these mosquitos. Updated information is available at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/.