Zika in Texas: Health Officials Look for More Cases

State & Regional

The Department of State Health Services is on the lookout for more people infected with the Zika virus in Texas.

The first case of Zika transmitted locally by a mosquito in Texas was announced by the DSHS and Cameron County Monday.

“It only takes one,” said Chris Van Deusen, press officer for DSHS.

The first case of local transmission comes from south Texas, in Cameron County, near the Mexican border.

According to DSHS, lab results confirmed the virus in a non-pregnant Brownsville woman last week.

The virus can cause severe birth defects in unborn babies whose mothers are infected with Zika while pregnant.

Tests indicate the virus is no longer in the woman’s blood, meaning Zika can no longer be spread from her by a mosquito.

“There may be other infections that aren’t travel related that we don’t know about,” Van Deusen said.

State officials said they’ve been preparing for local transmission for about a year and the first case is not a surprise. Van Deusen said, “We knew it was going to happen at some point and now we’ve seen this local case and we could see others. Of course we want to limit its spread as much as we can.”

Health workers are going door to door in the affected area to educate neighbors about Zika and how to reduce the risk of getting the virus.

“Using insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, making sure window screens are in good order,” Van Deusen said. He added it’s important to eliminate any standing water to stop the mosquitoes from breeding near homes.

Health officials are also asking for voluntary urine samples to determine if other people are infected.

The samples collected will be sent to the lab in Austin for testing.

State health officials said there are no other cases of suspected local transmission at this time but DSHS will continue to watch out for more.

“We know that the Rio Grande Valley in one of the most likely places that we could see Zika spread in Texas,” Van Deusen said.

Several communities on the Mexican side of the border have reported local mosquito transmission and people regularly cross from one side to the other.

Van Deusen said, “That travel always raises the possibility that people could become infected and Zika could be spread here as well.”

DSHS will continue to conduct disease surveillance activities as part of the state’s ongoing Zika response.

Van Deusen said Brownsville has a very active mosquito control program that sprays for mosquitoes, including areas close to where the infected woman lives.

The virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito though sexual transmission can occur. 

More than 250 cases of Zika have been reported in Texas but until now, all of those cases have been related to travel.

Behind Florida, Texas is the second state in the continental United States to confirm a locally-transmitted case of Zika virus.

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