Residents urged to be vigilant against Zika virus

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SAN DIEGO — A campaign for San Diegans to maintain vigilance against the Zika virus got underway this week with broadcast and billboard messages, county officials said Thursday.

The messages urge people to fight invasive Aedes mosquitoes, which can transmit Zika and other illnesses if they first bite an infected person. Residents can reduce the Aedes population by finding and dumping out standing water in and around homes so the insects can’t breed.

Despite the risk, no one has contracted Zika from a mosquito bite in San Diego County or elsewhere in California, county officials said.

Most of the 95 area residents who were confirmed to have Zika since the beginning of 2015 picked up the disease by traveling, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency. A few others were from sexual transmission.

Officials worry that the situation could change quickly if the virus spreads into the Aedes population. The county last year sprayed 10 neighborhoods where the type of mosquitoes were discovered near someone suffering from Zika.

For most people, the virus produces mild symptoms. However, a spate of children of mothers with the disease in Brazil were born with microcephaly, a condition in which babies have smaller, misshapen heads and a shorter life expectancy — drawing international headlines early last year.

The county campaign will push its message through televised video and radio public service announcements, interviews, posters placed in bus stops and transit shelters, and a digital billboard along Interstate 5 near the U.S.- Mexico border.

The campaign is intended to reach all county residents, but particularly pregnant women, couples who may wish to become pregnant, travelers and people who commute back and forth between Mexico and the San Diego region.

Two babies have been born infected with the Zika virus in San Diego County, and one suffered from microcephaly, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency.

County health officials also urged residents to protect themselves against mosquito bites, especially if they’re pregnant, plan to become pregnant or are going to travel overseas.

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