MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE BARSTOW, California -- Summertime is historically the season in the High Desert and California when mosquito populations increase and with it the chance of contracting a mosquito-borne disease.
Doctor Karen Smith, the director of California Department of Public Health, said to reduce the chances of getting a mosquito-borne disease she advises citizens to wear long sleeve shirts and long pants when outside, remove standing water where mosquitoes can breed and use an approved mosquito repellent to avoid contracting vector-borne diseases.
She also advises that citizens should avoid traveling to countries with known Zika virus outbreaks.
The mosquito that carries Zika virus is not native to the United States but has been found in San Bernardino County and at least 11 other California counties.
The presence of the mosquito does not necessarily mean it is carrying the virus because it has to bite someone who has the Zika virus in their bloodstream to pass it on to another human being.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes Zika is not transmittable through the air but via blood, mother to child, and sexual contact.
The Zika virus itself causes flu-like symptoms similar to other influenzas including fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (“pink eye”), muscle pain, and headache.
Smith said there is a possible association between Zika and microcephaly (abnormally small head and brain) in newborns. It is suspected that women who get infected with Zika virus may pass the virus to the developing fetus if they are pregnant. However, there are many causes of microcephaly in babies, and whether Zika virus infection causes microcephaly has not been confirmed.
As of last month, there have been at least 20 reported cases of people infected with Zika virus in California including San Bernardino, Alameda, Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Madera, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, San Mateo, and Tulare counties.
Smith said there is currently no vaccine to prevent Zika, but the symptoms can be treated as you would any influenza.