Texas Announces Additional Local Zika Cases in Cameron County

News Release
News Release
December 15, 2016

News Release 
December 9, 2016

The Texas Department of State Health Servicesand Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services have identified fouradditional cases of suspected locally transmitted Zika virus disease in CameronCounty. The cases were identified as part of the follow up to the state’s firstcase of Zika likely transmitted by a mosquito in Texas, announced Nov. 28.

The additional patients live in very closeproximity to the first case. Though the investigation is ongoing, theinfections were likely acquired in that immediate area. They reported gettingsick with Zika-like symptoms between Nov. 29 and Dec. 1 and were likelyinfected several days earlier before mosquito control efforts intensified in thatpart of Brownsville. None are pregnant women. Testing of people living in aneight-block area around the homes of the identified cases continues but has yetto show any additional evidence of Zika transmission in the rest of that largerarea.

“These cases were found through carefulpublic health work and collaboration at the local, state and federal levels,” saidDr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner, “and we’ll continue to follow throughwith the investigation and additional surveillance to identify other cases and otherplaces experiencing local mosquito transmission of Zika. That information willbe crucial to any future public health guidance.”

It’s also important that health careproviders continue to be on the lookout for Zika and pursue testing pregnantwomen who have traveled to Mexico or other areas where Zika is spreading and testinganyone with symptoms compatible with Zika. More specific guidance for cliniciansis available at www.texaszika.org/healthcareprof.htm.

Public health workers from Cameron County andDSHS’ regional office went door to door in the neighborhood last week to providetesting to look for other active Zika infections and educate residents about theillness and how to eliminate mosquito habitats. The education effort ultimatelyled to the detection of the four additional cases by prompting residents to recognizethe symptoms of Zika and contact the health department for testing. Additionally,the City of Brownsville has been spraying for mosquitoes in the vicinity overthe last two weeks and has seen a decrease in the number of mosquitoes in thearea.

“The combination of mosquito control and colderweather has decreased mosquito activity in Cameron County and greatly decreasedthe probability of more widespread mosquito transmission of Zika right now,”said Dr. Hellerstedt. “However, winters are mild in southern Texas, andmosquito populations can rebound even during short periods of warmer weather. Wheneveryou see mosquito activity, protect yourself and your family from bites.”

People can do that by

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

Prompted by theadditional cases, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission is expandingthe Medicaid benefit for mosquito repellent beyond Dec. 31 for residents ofCameron County. The benefit was recently brought back with news of the firstZika case likely transmitted locally and is in place statewide through Dec. 31.For Cameron County, the benefit will be in place indefinitely as state healthofficials collect more information about the scope of transmission in Texas.

Zika virus istransmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito,though it can also spread by sexual contact. The four most common symptoms arefever, itchy rash, joint pain and eye redness. While symptoms are usuallyminor, Zika can also cause severe birth defects, including microcephaly, andother poor birth outcomes in some women infected during pregnancy. DSHSrecommends pregnant women avoid traveling to locations with sustained, localZika transmission, including Mexico. Pregnant women should also use condoms oravoid sexual contact with partners who have traveled to those areas. Travelers andthe general public can find more information at TexasZika.org.


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(News Media Contact: Chris Van Deusen, DSHS Director of Media Relations, 512-776-7753)

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