On Monday, California health officials admitted that six people in California who contracted the disease abroad have been diagnosed with the Zika virus since 2013.
California Department of Public Health Director Karen Smith said that no evidence has been found that the Asian tiger and the yellow fever mosquitoes that carry the disease exist in California, but warned, “Although no one has contracted Zika virus in California, mosquito bites can still be harmful and the public should take steps to protect themselves,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
No vaccine exists for Zika, which has been linked to microcephaly, a disease in which babies are born with underdeveloped brains. On Monday, the World health organization declared a global emergency, as 4,000 cases of microcephaly have been reported in Brazil since October. WHO director general Margaret Chan stated, “I am now declaring that the recent cluster of microcephaly and other neurological abnormalities reported in Latin America following a similar cluster in French Polynesia in 2014 constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.”
Two Californians contracted Zika while abroad in 2015; three more cases derived from 2014 and one in 2013, according to state officials. At least one case involved a young girl in Los Angeles County, according to county officials.
Zika has been reported in over 20 countries in the Americas.
Zika can only be transmitted if a mosquito bites a person who has the virus, then bites another person. The risk of microcephaly has catalyzed authorities to inform women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant not to visit countries where the virus is present.
12 of the 58 counties in California have found the mosquitos responsible for Zika in their areas, according to the California Department of Public Health.