Texas reported its first case today of a person likely being infected locally with the Zika virus through a mosquito.
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The woman in the Rio Grande Valley was diagnosed with Zika virus, but had not traveled anywhere the virus transmission was ongoing, state health officials said. As a result, health officials believe she likely contracted the virus from a local mosquito carrying the disease.
“We knew it was only a matter of time before we saw a Zika case spread by a mosquito in Texas,” Dr. John Hellerstedt, Texas Department of State Health Services commissioner, said in a statement today. “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 infected woman is not pregnant, health officials said. The Texas Department of State Health Services and Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services are investigating the case and searching for others who might be infected. Areas near the infected woman are being sprayed to reduce the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the species largely responsible for the spread of the virus.
The Zika virus has been shown to cause serious birth defects when a pregnant woman is infected, especially during the early stages of the pregnancy. The birth defects include microcephaly, often characterized by an abnormally small head and brain, leading to significant development delays.
As of last week, Texas reported 257 confirmed cases of Zika since the outbreak began, with nearly all from people who had traveled abroad where the virus was more prevalent. In two cases, the disease spread via sexual contact, according to health officials.
In the continental United States, only Florida has reported a locally transmitted outbreak of the Zika virus. The Florida outbreak, based in the southern region of the state, has been ongoing since July.