Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

KPBS Midday Edition

First Child With Zika Virus Related Defect Born In San Diego County

An Aedes aegypti mosquito known to carry the Zika virus, is photographed through a microscope at the Fiocruz institute in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Jan. 27, 2016.
Associated Press
An Aedes aegypti mosquito known to carry the Zika virus, is photographed through a microscope at the Fiocruz institute in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Jan. 27, 2016.
First Child With Zika Virus Related Defect Born In San Diego County
First Child With Zika Virus Related Defect Born In San Diego County GUEST:Dr. Sayone Thihalolipavan, deputy public health officer, San Diego County

The zika virus was headline news last spring and summer. We learned that pregnant women affected with the virus were given birth to babies with birth defects. The country most affected by the out like was Brazil. Since that time. Has faded from the news so it was shocking to learn this week that a baby was born in San Diego County with a birth defect associated with the zika virus microcephaly. That causes a babies had to be small and underdeveloped. Joining me now is Doctor Sayone Thihalolipavan deputy public health officer. Welcome to the program. Honored to be here. Do we know where the mother of this baby contracted the virus? We do but unfortunately because we've only had one case of microcephaly we want to do everything we can to protect the individual's confidentiality so I cannot discuss it. Can we say it was not in San Diego? I was definitely not in San Diego. We know like all of the cases that we have in San Diego are all and how is is dated with travel You are not releasing the names of the people involved in this particular instance. Correct. Did she know she had contracted. They understand the symptoms are not usually severe. I cannot discuss the details but the symptoms are usually to your point they are absolutely not that severe for most people. Only 20% of people who get affected experience symptoms like the fever rash and joint pains and red eyes. Most people may not know and for those that do know especially if you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant should go to the provider if they are concerned about zika especially if they came back from the zika affected country. The baby that was born has condition known as microcephaly. Reminders what that birth defect is. It is a rare birth defect and it's a condition where a baby has a smaller head and smaller brain than the average baby and the reason we care so much but the implication of that is because there can be lifelong implications. The reduced brain size can affect a lot of the development. You will see delays and possibly issues with hearing or speech or swallowing or balance or movement or seizures. The effects vary by individual but they have to be closely monitored medically for the first few years of life and that of course get adequate support needed like occupational therapy and physical therapy. San Diego County is using this sad event as a chance to warn people against traveling to countries where zika is prevalent what are those countries? It is very tragic and you know that we all hope the best for the family that we want to use this as an important reminder because you know when we are flying to the country or around this time of year The ones that San Diego tends to go to more are Mexico Central America South America it also has zika as well. Is a dangerous exposure to the zika virus is it dangerous for women who are not pregnant for men? It can be the symptoms are mild for those that experience it that women may want to become pregnant and make it expose to the first trimester before they know that they are pregnant and that is the trimester where the brain starts developing. The other thing is that it can be sexually transmitted so for example a male partner may get it and that might possibly pass it on to a female who is trying to become pregnant again we worry most about these incidents that are being born to zika affected mothers. We just advised that anyone who is considering becoming pregnant or a spouse or partner of somebody who is becoming pregnant or a couple planning pregnancy really check the in the also talk to their providers and check with the CDC says which is that pregnant women should not go to zika affected countries unless absolutely necessary. We advised that they take all -- Can we do anything to prevent that. Even though zika has not been in the local news for the last couple months the County has been very actively engaged with medical providers just to be sure we don't have local transmissions to the counties so in the fall and early winter you heard about our spring events that we did and so as we continue to get people who are working up for zika and those who test positive and are infected we go and have vector control program go out and do surveillance for the specific mosquitoes that can cause zika and make sure that there not around -- and if there are those types of mosquitoes around somebody who is affected then that would necessitate something like a spring or other additional interventions to make sure that we into a that cycle did not allow for local spread of zika. He mentioned that of people must travel to areas that are known to have zika mosquitoes that they should take precautions. What kind of precautions? There is no vaccine is there? Not yet. They should take precautions because this is preventable. So to prevent yourself from any mosquito bites what you want to do is where longsleeve clothing and not travel at dusk and dawn keep your stay indoors especially during those hours use air conditioning's instead of opening the windows or use screens we know that there are many insect repellents that are very safe for pregnant women even if you are breast-feeding so there are a lot of things that they could do locally if you find that there are a lot of mosquitoes around whether you are worried about. Or West Nile you can always call vector control they can come and check it out This is ongoing. Yes. I've been speaking with Doctor Sayone Thihalolipavan. Thank you for your time I appreciate it.

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.

"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.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has more information about which countries and territories with known Zika transmission at the CDC Zika Travel Information Website.