Zika is in the Valley

SAN BENITO — If your radar wasn’t up, it should be now.

A pregnant San Benito woman has been diagnosed with the first case of Zika virus in Cameron County.

Her official diagnosis was made a few days ago, said Dr. James W. Castillo with the Cameron County Health Authority.

Officials said the 26-year-old has an extensive travel history in Mexico and they are focusing their efforts to the northwest side of San Benito.

Based on the information, Castillo has so far said officials are considering this to be a travel-related case.

“Our department is working with health officials in Mexico to investigate this case further and, at this point, all of the evidence points toward this being a travel-related case,” Castillo said.

“The individual is no longer at risk of transmitting the virus by mosquitoes based on our current understanding of how Zika is transmitted.”

Health officials say as soon as they learned of the Zika case they began spraying the city and surrounding areas for mosquitoes.

That’s not all they are doing.

Cameron County Health Department administrator Esmeralda Guajardo said her team currently is going door-to-door in an outreach effort to educate locals on the dangers of Zika.

They are currently tackling the San Benito area. About 22 people are out there and Guajardo said her team intends to finish by tomorrow.

Then, they will head to Brownsville.

“We’ve divided the city into zones and go to every door,” Guajardo said.

She said if nobody answers the door, a packet of information will be left for the owners or family.

During a morning news conference yesterday, Castillo urged everyone to remain vigilant and take precautions against Zika.

“What’s going to happen with Zika is that people are going to typically have no symptoms at all or they are going to have mild symptoms. Like a fever or a rash. In this case, and I expect in many cases, the person was having symptoms for a few days and they weren’t bad but she presented to her doctor,” Castillo said

Specifically, pregnant women are at risk for Zika- related complications. Those women are encouraged to be especially vigilant.

“The vast majority of women who acquire Zika while pregnant will not have ill effects, but there is a significant percentage and we are still doing research about that,” Castillo said. “There is a 10-percent risk of complications that we know about.”

Out of respect for the woman’s privacy, Castillo would not say what trimester she was in but did say she is no longer at risk of infecting others.

“After that, the virus is undetectable in the blood. Mosquitoes can’t catch Zika from people,” Castillo said.

Despite this new information, Castillo said there are several things people can do to lower their risk of contracting Zika.

The county has already started its response plan in an effort to beat it.

However, Castillo said more cases of Zika could pop up in the future.

“Every country in the western hemisphere is considered to have Zika. There are only a couple of countries — Chile and Uruguay — that don’t have cases. But every other country has cases,” Castillo said.

“We are not surprised by this,” Castillo added. “We are probably going to have a lot of cases we don’t know about. Many people don’t show symptoms.”

Anywhere the infected mosquito is, there will be cases of Zika.

“In terms of a Zika forecast, I would not be surprised if we continued to see travel-related cases and locally- acquired cases. We’re going to be dealing with this for years to come,” Castillo said.

For now, the woman is being looked after by her doctors.

Castillo said there is no medication which can be used to treat Zika.

All doctors can do is manage symptoms with supportive care until it runs its course.