Aedes aegypti mosquito

In this Jan. 27, 2016, file photo, an Aedes aegypti mosquito, known to carry the Zika virus, is photographed through a microscope at the Fiocruz institute in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)

By Susan Abram, Los Angeles Daily News
Posted: 08/19/16 – 2:15 PM PDT |

California health officials on Friday urged travelers returning home from the Olympics as well as countries where Zika is spreading to continue to wear insect repellent and to practice safe sex for several more weeks, to help prevent the spread of the virus in the Golden State.

While Zika is spread primarily through the bite of the black-and-white-striped Aedes mosquito, the virus also can be passed through sex, health officials said.

They are mostly concerned with people returning home from the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, because Brazil has been hit hard by the virus.

“Continue using insect repellent to prevent spreading the virus to mosquitoes in your community upon your return and refrain from unprotected sex so you don’t pass the virus to your partner,” Dr. Karen Smith, director for the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement.

So far, the mosquito that carries the virus has been found in a dozen California counties, including in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Orange counties.

There are no local transmissions reported in California, but Friday’s warning comes as Zika cases continue to climb in the state among people who have traveled abroad.

The total number of travel-associated Zika cases has jumped statewide by almost 50 percent in the last three weeks, from 114 recorded on July 29 to 170 by Friday, according to the state’s department of public health. The state began recording cases last year.

Health officials said couples should use condoms for at least eight weeks after travel. Men who have tested positive for Zika should use condoms for six months to prevent transmission to their partners, they added.

“Travelers returning from an affected region should also continue using insect repellent for three weeks to prevent the virus from spreading to mosquitoes, which might then infect others,” according to the health department.

Health officials are especially concerned about pregnant women. Two babies in California were recently born with microcephaly, a birth defect that can be caused by Zika. Both women who gave birth tested positive for the virus.

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