Global Health Crisis Hits Close To Home

todayMarch 1, 2016 29

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By Jairo Devora
News Reporter

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    Global Health Crisis Hits Close To Home


As of last week, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and now Austin have confirmed cases of Zika virus, according to city health officials.

On February 4th, Austin/Travis County Health Department confirmed the first case of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. The victim, a male under the age of 50, contracted the illness while traveling to Colombia, according to the City of Austin. This is soon after the World Health Organization declared Zika virus a public health threat.

In Houston, Texas, city Health officials confirmed a case of travel-acquired Zika virus in the city when a patient showed symptoms of fever, rash and joint pain, according to Time Magazine. Although officials in Houston did not reveal the name of the patient or where the patient traveled, city officials said the patient recently returned from Latin America.

A resident of Dallas County tested positive for Zika virus on Wednesday, February 3rd, making him the first patient to contract the virus without traveling outside of the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What caught the attention of Dallas County Health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, was that the patient contracted the virus through sexual contact, not a mosquito bite. Dallas County Health officials said the patient contracted the virus after having sexual relations with a person who recently returned from Venezuela. Since then, both patients have fully recovered.

Photo by Jairo Devora
Photo by Jairo Devora

On Tuesday, February 2nd, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of Zika virus in Bexar County, according to the City of San Antonio.  According to Bexar County Health officials, six people were tested for the virus, all of which had “traveled to affected areas.” The individual has recovered and has been declared virus-free, according to the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.

On Monday, February 1st, the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus an “international public health emergency,” according to the New York Times. The virus, which has been linked to birth defects, has triggered a wave of panic across South America, Mexico and the United States. With approximately 30 countries and territories declared as areas of Zika virus transmission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning travelers – in particular pregnant women – to use caution when visiting the listed countries.

Dr. Rodney E. Rohde, a microbiologist and professor at Texas State University, said that we are “not immune here [in San Marcos].” He continued, “Because the vectors are in Texas, throughout most of these areas, I wouldn’t be surprised to see cases showing up, whether they are imported or not.” According to Dr. Rohde, the greatest risk comes from people traveling to affected areas and “coming back with it [Zika].” Once the virus has made its way from Latin America to Mexico, and in turn into the United States, the virus “will move through the population,” according to Dr. Rohde.

Although many people believe mosquitos are most active at night or at sundown, Dr. Rohde explained that what he finds interesting is that “the two mosquito vectors are daytime biters.” Dr. Rohde recommends standard precautions to avoid being bitten, such as FDA-approved mosquito repellent, long sleeve shirts and avoiding areas where small amounts of water may be accumulated, describing them as “a breeding ground for mosquitos.”

Even though Dr. Rohde “wouldn’t put San Marcos on an island” in terms of our immunity to Zika, he stressed that the San Marcos-Hays County area is at “no greater risk” than Travis or Bexar County.

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