Aedes aegypti
  • Aedes aegypti
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UCSD is hot off the presses with research about how the Zika virus causes babies to be born with small heads.

"While promising, this research has been conducted only in human and mouse cells growing in the laboratory thus far," notes the report. "In addition, the Zika virus strain used in this study originated in Uganda, while the current Zika outbreak in Latin America involves a slightly different strain that originated in Asia."

Meanwhile, San Diego County has become a veritable California hotbed for the virus, second only to Los Angeles, according to the California Public Health Department’s latest weekly tally of travel-associated Zika cases, compiled from the beginning of 2015.

Checking in with 11 reported cases, San Diego is now one behind L.A.'s 12, with Alameda County a distant third with 4, and Contra Costa with 3. Orange and San Francisco counties each reported 2. California's grand total is currently 45.

The numbers represent "travelers returning from affected areas or their sexual contacts," according to the May 6 report. None of the cases are classified as having been locally acquired by mosquito bites. As of May 4, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 472 travel-related cases reported nationally. The disease can also be sexually transmitted.

Concerns that mosquitoes will eventually become primary carriers here stem from the prevalence of a species known as Aedes aegypti, "which thrives in urban areas by laying eggs in discarded food containers and old tires," according to an April 29 Washington Post report.

Microcephaly comparison (normal baby's head size on right)

Microcephaly comparison (normal baby's head size on right)

“With the recent outbreaks, the number of Zika cases among travelers visiting or returning to the United States will likely increase,” says the CDC. “These imported cases could result in local spread of the virus in some areas of the United States.”

"People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika," notes the CDC’s advisory. "For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects."

A January 2016 Scientific American accounting of the virus’s travel identified South Pacific and Central American countries as major origination points of humans carrying the virus to California.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map of Zika distribution (as of January 15, 2016)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map of Zika distribution (as of January 15, 2016)

On May 6, Major League Baseball announced that a series between the Pirates and Marlins set for Puerto Rico later this month was being moved to Miami due to Zika fears by some players, though one protested:

"Go visit my beautiful Puerto Rico!! Still don’t understand why MLB cancel the games down in PR! Wow!" Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina tweeted following the decision.

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