Pregnant Oakland woman tests negative for Zika virus

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A pregnant Oakland woman has tested negative for Zika after undergoing tests in January for the vector-borne virus after a tropical vacation.

The woman, Brook Meakins, displayed symptoms of the Zika virus — including rash and sore joints — after a trip to Bora Bora and Easter Island. On Feb. 2, Meakins posted a celebratory status on her Facebook page that while she had tested positive for Dengue fever, she and her unborn child were free from Zika.

Rachael Kagan, spokesperson for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, described Zika as causing a mild illness but with the potential to cause birth defects.

The World Health Organization declared the Zika virus a public health emergency Feb. 1; officials believe that because the Zika outbreak began in Brazil last year, nearly 1.5 million Brazilians have been infected with the virus.

Zika is usually spread via mosquitoes bites, but recent findings suggest that the virus can be sexually transmitted. Zika has also been found in saliva, but “there’s no evidence that it can spread that way yet,” according to John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

Mosquito species that carry the Zika virus — such as the Aedes aegypti — thrive in urban areas. They have been found in 12 California counties, according to Vicki Kramer, chief of the vector-borne disease section at the California Department of Public Health.

The probability of the Zika virus spreading in Berkeley is low, said city spokesperson Matthai Chakko. Though he could not disclose how many people have been tested for Zika in Berkeley, he noted that all cases have proven negative.

So far, all mosquito-caused American cases of Zika have been contracted outside the country. If travel is necessary, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention travel advisory offers many tips to avoid contracting the virus.

Swartzberg noted that several natural and human factors — such as harsher winters, more air conditioning and better mosquito control — will prevent a large Zika outbreak in the United States, even if cases do crop up.

“I think it’s highly unlikely that it will explode like it’s done in Brazil,” Swartzberg said.

Staff writer Anna Sturla contributed to this report.

Contact Jennifer Wong at [email protected].

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