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State Health Services Ramps Up Zika Fight; Keeping An Eye On The Valley

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The Texas Department of State Health Services has ramped up efforts to protect Texans from the Zika virus.  As of Thursday there are 18 Zika Virus cases in Texas, up four from Wednesday.  All the cases are associated with travel with the exception of one in Dallas County which is thought to have been transmitted through sexual contact by someone who had acquired it while traveling. 

Texas Department of Health Services spokeswoman Carrie Williams says so far, Texas mosquitoes are not to blame. 

“Right now there is no evidence of local transmission by Texas mosquitoes,” she says. “But we’re taking action now before it’s really here. We know that Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito and we do have those in Texas, particularly in the south and southeast parts of the state.  But that type of mosquito can really live anywhere humans are present.”

Williams says the Rio Grande Valley is of particular concern since Texas shares a border with Mexico where local mosquitoes have transmitted Zika.  She says you can discover much more about the Zika Virus by visiting the new website TexasZika.org.

With regard to the Valley, some doctors are concerned that spring break and Easter travelers from Mexico could help spread the Zika virus there.

One physician from Tamaulipas, Mexico, says four cases of Zika were recently discovered in Monterrey and attributed to local mosquitoes.

But South Padre Island spokesman Gary Ainsworth says visitors should not worry. 

“We are keeping tabs on everything,” he says. “We do monitor what goes on throughout the state and since we are a border community we keep tabs of what’s going on in northern Mexico.  We’re aware of the potentials, but at the same time we feel that we’re doing the most that we can already.”

Ainsworth said the city sprays larvicide to kill mosquito eggs and insecticide in areas where water accumulates.  He recommends visitors use mosquito repellent with DEET.

Thousands of people are expected on South Padre for spring break and Easter beginning in about two weeks