Zika Cases Slow, but DSHS Still Urges Caution
Currently, there is no vaccine or treatment for the Zika virus. The best protection to avoid infection is to prevent mosquito breeding and protect yourself from mosquito bites.
There’s good news and bad news on the Zika virus front in Texas.
“The good news is, it’s been cold enough in most of the state that mosquito activity has dropped,” said DSHS Director of Media Relations Chris Van Deusen.
The bad news? “That’s not consistently the case in the Valley so there continues to be a risk of Zika spreading there,” he said.
So far, Texas has reported nearly 300 cases of Zika, with the vast majority related to travel to areas with ongoing Zika transmission. DSHS continues to receive weekly reports of new travel cases and has identified six cases transmitted by mosquitoes in Texas, all in Brownsville. Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean, continue to be Zika hotspots.
“That continues to be a concern for us, especially as people from the US travel there when it’s cold here,” Van Deusen said.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all pregnant women who live in or regularly travel to Brownsville be tested for Zika, once in their first trimester and again in the second. They can do this at their regular pre-natal checkups or through their county health clinics.
Despite the advent of colder weather, DSHS still recommends Texans take precautions against mosquito bites by using an effective mosquito repellant and wearing long pants and long-sleeve shirts. And in addition to dumping any standing water in flower pots and the like, Van Deusen said it’s also a good idea to scrub containers where water collects to eliminate mosquito eggs that can lie dormant through the winter.
While the Zika virus is transmitted primarily through mosquito bites, it may also spread by sexual contact. The four most common symptoms are fever, itchy rash, joint pain and eye redness. While symptoms are usually minor, Zika can also cause severe birth defects, including microcephaly, in some women who become infected during pregnancy.
DSHS recommends pregnant women follow CDC advice to avoid traveling to locations with sustained, local Zika transmission, including all areas of Mexico. Pregnant women should also use condoms or avoid sexual contact with partners who have traveled to those areas.