First Likely Local Zika Case Reported In Texas
The state health department is reporting the first case of Zika likely spread by a mosquito to a person in Texas.
For months now, many health experts said it was not a case of if, but when the Zika virus would be spread locally in Texas. It appears to have happened in Brownsville in Cameron County on the border with Mexico. The patient is a woman who is not pregnant. She felt ill and a doctor ordered a Zika test.
Texas has already documented 257 cases of travel-related Zika, but this is the first case thought to be transmitted from an infected mosquito to someone who has not traveled.
Texas Department of State Health Services spokesman Chris Van Deusen said when the woman fell ill, her doctor ran a test. “It does not appear that this case would have been sexually transmitted, which is possible with Zika," Van Deusen explained. "And the patient reports not having traveled outside the state recently so that leads us to believe that it was most likely transmitted by a mosquito inside Texas."
Already, state and Cameron County health officials are putting a plan into action, visiting a 6 to 8 block area around the woman’s house and warning people about the threat. The idea is to stop any further spread of the virus, which is especially harmful to unborn children of infected pregnant women.
"Cameron County along with our support are going to start going door to door in the neighborhood where this patient lives," Van Deusen said. "They’ll also be offering urine testing to people in the neighborhood so we can try to get a handle on whether there may be other infections out there."
The appearance of the Zika virus in a mosquito in Texas did not come as a surprise, since the temperate climate in the Rio Grande Valley and its proximity to Mexico make it a high-risk area. All South Texans are being encouraged to continue mosquito abatements measures and wear repellent to lessen the risk.
The state health department has been in contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Florida health departments who dealt with the first local cases in the continental U-S this summer.
"We certainly learned from the Florida response and can take some of those lessons to bear," Van Deusen added.
The state health commissioner said he does not believe the virus will become widespread in Texas, but he says Texans in the southern part of the state should protect themselves from mosquito bites even in the winter.