The Zika virus can cause severe birth defects. Photo courtesy Centers for Disease Control
The Zika virus can cause severe birth defects. Photo courtesy Centers for Disease Control

County health officials Tuesday reiterated an advisory for pregnant women to avoid traveling to areas where the mosquito-borne Zika virus is present, following disclosure of the first birth in the San Diego area of a baby suffering from the related birth defect known as microcephaly.

The county Health and Human Services Agency reported that the mother was infected with the Zika virus while traveling in a country where the illness is common. Details about when or where the baby was born, or the infant’s current condition, were not released because of privacy concerns.

The birth was reported by City News Service last week after it was made known in county health documents.

“Pregnant women who must travel to one of these areas should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites and speak with a health care provider upon return,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer.

According to health officials, the Zika virus affects prenatal brain development. The result is microcephaly, in which the brain and head are smaller than normal.

A report released last week by the UC San Diego School of Medicine found that microcephaly babies in Brazil faced symptoms like immobility and curvature of the joints, a shortening and hardening of the hands and poor positioning of feet, severely abnormal muscle tension and contraction, poor or delayed response to visual stimuli and excitability, brain calcification, and underdevelopment of the brainstem and cerebellum.

The study, involving the study of 83 children with congenital Zika infections, found that while the severity of brain damage and other problems were variable, victims were likely to be disabled throughout their lives.

As of March 24, the HHSA has confirmed 87 travel-associated cases of Zika infection among San Diego County residents, but all were travel-related. Of those sickened, 31 went to Mexico and nine to Nicaragua, according to HHSA data.

Only two were directly tied to Brazil, the country where Zika first gained worldwide attention last year.

No local mosquito transmitted cases of Zika have occurred in California, though limited local transmission has occurred in Florida and Texas, according to the agency.

The disease can also be sexually transmitted. The HHSA recommended that sexually active adults who travel to areas with Zika should use condoms or other barriers to avoid getting or passing virus, even after they return home.

Couples planning pregnancy should speak with a health care provider about a safe length of time to wait before trying to get pregnant, according to health officials.

HHSA advised anyone who develops symptoms of Zika infection after travel to seek medical care.

–City News Service