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Texas reports its first locally-transmitted Zika virus case


The Lone Star State reported its first mosquito-transmitted Zika virus case Monday, making it only the second state other than Florida in which the virus has been spread from mosquitoes to humans, FiveThirtyEight reports.

According to a press release from the Texas Department of State Health Services, a lab test performed on a Cameron County Texas resident last week came back positive for the virus, which is spread from mosquitoes to humans.  

“We knew it was only a matter of time before we saw a Zika case spread by a mosquito in Texas,” Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner said in the press release. “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.”

The woman is not pregnant but lab tests performed last week confirmed that she was infected with the virus, although she reportedly had not traveled to Mexico or any other country with ongoing Zika transmission. While genetic material from the Zika virus was found in the woman’s urine sample, it was not found in her blood, meaning the virus can no longer be spread by a mosquito.

Up until Monday, Texas had 257 confirmed cases of the Zika virus that had been associated with travel, but the woman’s case was the first known case of local transmission in the state. According to the FiveThirtyEight article, Florida has reported 238 cases of locally-acquired Zika. 

The DSHS, according to the press release, states that there are no other suspected cases of local transmission at this time, but health officials continue activities aimed at detecting the disease as part of Texas’s ongoing Zika response and the DSHS is working with Cameron County and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate the case in order to pinpoint how and where the infection occurred.

Health workers from Cameron County and DSHS will be going door to door in the area around the area where the case lives to educate the public about Zika, help people reduce potential mosquito breeding habitat on their property, and collect voluntary urine samples to determine whether other infections are present, the press release said.

Health officials continue to urge people, particularly pregnant women, not to travel to Mexico or other countries where the Zika virus is prevalent.

The press release says the Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito, though sexual transmission can occur. 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, and other poor birth outcomes in some women infected during pregnancy.

Additional information on cases and for the public is available at www.texaszika.org