A man from Costa Mesa was infected with the Zika virus while traveling in Central America in January, officials confirmed Thursday.
The virus, once believed to have only mild symptoms, is suspected of causing serious birth defects, most notably in Brazil. The Orange County man, who is in his 40s, did not get seriously ill and since has recovered, officials said.
Almost all cases of Zika in the United States have been acquired while people were traveling in countries with outbreaks, experts say. Zika is typically spread by mosquitoes, though there have been reports of transmission through sex.
Zika was limited to pockets of Africa and Southeast Asia before last year. But after the disease began spreading in Brazil, there was a spike in cases of microcephaly, a rare birth defect that causes abnormally small heads.
Increasingly, scientific evidence confirms the link between Zika and microcephaly. A study published last week by researchers from Brazil and UCLA found that the fetuses of 29% of women who tested positive for Zika had "grave outcomes," including fetal death.
"The more we learn, the worse things seem to get," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, scientific director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in a conference call with reporters Thursday.
There are now Zika outbreaks in more than 30 countries, and health officials have warned pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant not to travel or plan travel to those countries.
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