Texas the ‘perfect storm’ for developing Zika virus?

Mosquitos with the Zika virus (CDC)
Mosquitos with the Zika virus (CDC)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Zika virus has now been confirmed in eleven states as world health leaders say the mosquito borne virus is spreading globally at “an alarming rate”. Further, Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, is warning that Texas could be the “perfect storm” to see a Zika outbreak in the coming months.

All the cases in the United States, including Houston, did not originate here, the virus was brought here from Latin American countries, but that could change as warmer weather and the mosquito season approach. Only travelers to Latin America have to worry for now, but if you do get the symptoms check with your doctor, especially if you’re carrying a child. Dr. Philip Huang, medical director for Travis County Health and Human Services, explains, “Anyone who is pregnant and is coming back with developed symptoms, should contact the local health department and we would assess each situation.” As the case warrants, the patient would be treated by the CDC.

As for the prediction out of the Baylor College of Medicine about Texas facing the perfect storm, Dr. Huang says, “It is something we’re very concerned about. We want to do everything we can, there’s no prevention and no vaccine for this. The main prevention is mosquito protection.”

Appearing at a health symposium in Austin Friday was the Houston doctor who recently treated a woman who picked up Zika in El Salvador. She is doing fine now, but Dr. Umair Shah, medical director at the Harris County Health Department is worried that the type of mosquitos that carry Zika are present in Texas, ready to breed in warmer weather, “It’s not a likely scenario of IF our mosquitos get Xika virus, it’s more a question of WHEN they get it.”

Only one in five who get Zika will feel the symptoms, which are generally mild, such as fever, rash, joint pain or conjunctivitis (pinkeye). The danger is pregnant moms passing it along to their unborn. That could lead to a birth defect called microcephaly, a condition in which the child’s head is much smaller than normal. There is no vaccine or treatment, if you get Zika the best you can do is get lots of fluids, rest and something for pain, but not aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs. It would be best to consult your doctor.

The Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department says they are not aware of anyone in Travis County being watched or tested for the Zika virus.

For more information on Zika visit the CDC’s website. 

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