December 9, 2016
The Texas Department of State Health Services
and Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services have identified four
additional cases of suspected locally transmitted Zika virus disease in Cameron
County. The cases were identified as part of the follow up to the state’s first
case of Zika likely transmitted by a mosquito in Texas, announced Nov. 28.
The additional patients live in very close
proximity to the first case. Though the investigation is ongoing, the
infections were likely acquired in that immediate area. They reported getting
sick with Zika-like symptoms between Nov. 29 and Dec. 1 and were likely
infected several days earlier before mosquito control efforts intensified in that
part of Brownsville. None are pregnant women. Testing of people living in an
eight-block area around the homes of the identified cases continues but has yet
to show any additional evidence of Zika transmission in the rest of that larger
“These cases were found through careful
public health work and collaboration at the local, state and federal levels,” said
Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner, “and we’ll continue to follow through
with the investigation and additional surveillance to identify other cases and other
places experiencing local mosquito transmission of Zika. That information will
be crucial to any future public health guidance.”
It’s also important that health care
providers continue to be on the lookout for Zika and pursue testing pregnant
women who have traveled to Mexico or other areas where Zika is spreading and testing
anyone with symptoms compatible with Zika. More specific guidance for clinicians
is available at www.texaszika.org/healthcareprof.htm.
Public health workers from Cameron County and
DSHS’ regional office went door to door in the neighborhood last week to provide
testing to look for other active Zika infections and educate residents about the
illness and how to eliminate mosquito habitats. The education effort ultimately
led to the detection of the four additional cases by prompting residents to recognize
the symptoms of Zika and contact the health department for testing. Additionally,
the City of Brownsville has been spraying for mosquitoes in the vicinity over
the last two weeks and has seen a decrease in the number of mosquitoes in the
“The combination of mosquito control and colder
weather has decreased mosquito activity in Cameron County and greatly decreased
the probability of more widespread mosquito transmission of Zika right now,”
said Dr. Hellerstedt. “However, winters are mild in southern Texas, and
mosquito populations can rebound even during short periods of warmer weather. Whenever
you 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 door
screens that are in good repair to keep mosquitoes out of homes.
- Wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts that
cover exposed skin.
- Removing standing water in and around homes
year-round, including water in trash cans, toys, tires, flower pots and any
other container that can hold water.
Prompted by the
additional cases, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission is expanding
the Medicaid benefit for mosquito repellent beyond Dec. 31 for residents of
Cameron County. The benefit was recently brought back with news of the first
Zika case likely transmitted locally and is in place statewide through Dec. 31.
For Cameron County, the benefit will be in place indefinitely as state health
officials collect more information about the scope of transmission in Texas.
Zika virus is
transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito,
though it can also spread by sexual contact. The four most common symptoms are
fever, itchy rash, joint pain and eye redness. While symptoms are usually
minor, Zika can also cause severe birth defects, including microcephaly, and
other poor birth outcomes in some women infected during pregnancy. DSHS
recommends pregnant women avoid traveling to locations with sustained, local
Zika transmission, including Mexico. Pregnant women should also use condoms or
avoid sexual contact with partners who have traveled to those areas. Travelers and
the general public can find more information at TexasZika.org.
(News Media Contact: Chris Van Deusen, DSHS Director of Media Relations, 512-776-7753)
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