Texas sees first locally transmitted case of Zika

In this Jan. 18, 2016 photo, a researcher holds a container with female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes at the Biomedical Sciences Institute in the Sao Paulo's University, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The Aedes aegypti is a vector for transmitting the Zika virus. The Brazilian government announced it will direct funds to a biomedical research center to help develop a vaccine against the Zika virus linked to brain damage in babies. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

CAMERON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The first case of Zika virus transmitted locally by a mosquito in Texas was announced by the Department of State Health Services and Cameron County on Monday.

The patient is a Cameron County resident who is not pregnant and who was confirmed as infected in a lab test last week. The woman told officials she has not recently traveled to Mexico or anywhere else with ongoing Zika virus transmission.

A test found that while the virus was in the patient’s urine, it was not in her blood, meaning Zika can no longer be spread from her by a mosquito. Health officials say there is no other cases of suspected local transmission at this time.

Health workers will be going door to door in the affected area to educate neighbors about Zika, help people reduce their personal risk and asking for voluntary urine samples to determine if other people are infected. The collected samples will be tested at the DSHS lab in Austin.

“We knew it was only a matter of time before we saw a Zika case spread by a mosquito in Texas,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner. “We still don’t believe the virus will become widespread in Texas, but there could be more cases, so people need to protect themselves from mosquito bites, especially in parts of the state that stay relatively warm in the fall and winter.”

Investigators are working to determine how and where the infection occurred. The city of Brownsville and Cameron County are conducting environmental assessment’s near the patient’s home and have been trapping and testing mosquitoes to learn about activity in the area. Brownsville has recently sprayed for mosquitoes in the area. The city is now taking additional action to reduce the mosquito population.

Due to the risk of birth defects associated with Zika, the DSHS says pregnant women should avoid traveling to Mexico and should avoid sexual contact or use condoms with partners who have traveled there. Other precautions include:

  • Using EPA-approved insect repellent.
  • Wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts that cover exposed skin.
  • Using air conditioning or window and door screens that are in good repair to keep mosquitoes out of homes.
  • Removing standing water in and around homes, including water in trash cans, toys, tires, flower pots and any other container that can hold water.

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