A woman from the Rio Grande Valley has been diagnosed with the state’s first locally transmitted case of Zika virus, health officials announced Monday.
The patient, a resident of Cameron County, likely contracted the virus from a mosquito in Texas. She is neither pregnant nor did she travel recently across the border or to another country with ongoing Zika transmission, according to a press release from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The woman's infection was confirmed by lab tests last week. Genetic material from the virus was found in the patient’s urine, but a negative blood test indicates the virus can’t be spread from her by a mosquito, according to the state health department.
“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, says in the 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.”
Cameron County, the state health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating the case further to pinpoint where the infection occurred. Officials have been conducting an environmental assessment of the woman’s home and have been trapping and testing mosquitos in the area.
Through last week, Texas has had 257 confirmed cases of Zika virus disease. Until now, all cases were connected to travel, including two infants born to women who had traveled during their pregnancy and two people who had sexual contact with infected travelers, according to the state health department.
Zika transmission, symptoms and prevention
Zika is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. But transmission via sexual intercourse can occur, too.
The four most common symptoms are fever, itchy rash, joint pain and eye redness. Symptoms are usually minor, but Zika can cause severe birth defects, including microcephaly, in some women infected during pregnancy.
The state health department says pregnant women, particularly in the Rio Grande Valley, should avoid travel to Mexico, due to news reports of Zika transmission by mosquitos in several communities. Also, residents should avoid sexual contact or use protection with partners who have traveled there.
Other precautions include:
- Using EPA-approved insect repellent
- Wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts
- Using air conditioning or window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of homes.
- Removing standing water in and around homes, including water in trash cans, toys, tires, flower pots, etc.