Zika in Texas
March 28, 2017 at midnight
On November 28, 2016, the first confirmed case of Zika virus in Texas was announced. The patient, a female resident of Brownsville, was probably infected by a mosquito bite. On December 14, the CDC declared Brownsville and surrounds a 'Zika cautionary area'—so the spread of the virus has been confirmed, although there is currently no evidence that it will spread further if correct precautions are taken.
According to the CDC, the Zika virus can be transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids, including sexual contact and blood transfusions. However, Zika is primarily transmitted when a person is bitten by an Aedes Aegypti mosquito that had previously bitten an infected person. This mosquito is found in the southern parts of Texas that border Mexico and thrives in urban areas. It breeds by laying clusters of eggs in standing water, whether inside or outside.
For most healthy people, the symptoms of the Zika virus are mild and non-life threatening, including fever, rash, joint or muscle pain, conjunctivitis, and headache. However, the virus has been linked as a possible cause of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a severe immunity disorder. Also, if a pregnant woman contracts the virus, she can pass it on to her unborn fetus. The Zika virus has been linked to several birth defects, including microcephaly, which causes babies to be born with an underdeveloped skull. For this reason, anyone who suspects they may have contracted Zika should be tested immediately to avoid spreading the disease.
As of March 21, 2017, Texas has reported 234 individuals into the CDC’s Zika Pregnancy Registry. The registry includes pregnant women with laboratory evidence of Zika infection and their infants, regardless of laboratory evidence. Texas provides data to the Zika Pregnancy Registry weekly. Pregnant women should take precautions to avoid contracting the virus, such as wearing mosquito repellent and long sleeves and practicing safe sex. Any woman who is pregnant or might get pregnant should not travel to Brownsville or the surrounding areas. Pregnant women who think they may have been exposed to Zika should be tested routinely.
There is no existing vaccine for the Zika virus. To protect yourself and your community, remove any standing water that may serve as a breeding ground for infected mosquitoes. If you live in a heavily mosquito-populated area, treat outdoor areas around your home with residual pesticides. Take every precaution to avoid a mosquito bite, such as wearing an EPA-registered mosquito repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, and limiting outdoor activity. There is currently no evidence that pets or other animals can contract or spread the virus. There have not yet been any confirmed blood transfusion transmissions in the USA, thanks to good donor screening practices. Potential blood donors should not give blood if they have traveled near the Zika cautionary area or if they are experiencing any of the Zika symptoms.
Various governmental and professional groups are working hard to both study and prevent the spread of the Zika virus. With the appropriate precautions, the virus will hopefully be controlled both in Texas and worldwide.
More information and breaking news on the Zika virus can be found on the CDC website.