Gearing up for Zika battle: Officials say be prepared

SAN BENITO — Mosquito season is right around the corner.

With the resurgence of the pesky little blood sucker comes the possibility of Zika virus.

County health officials are already one step ahead of the fight, taking every precaution and taking every opportunity to warn the public on the dangers of this virus.

Epidemiologist Dino Chavez and Cameron County Health and Human Services Department Assistant Director Jessy Hernandez discussed the topic with the San Benito Chamber of Commerce during their weekly “Coffee With” meeting.

Both discussed the current news regarding Zika in Cameron County and how their office is working to combat it.

To date, there are 33 confirmed cases of Zika in Cameron County. Hernandez said all 33 persons, which consists of 17 pregnant women, are being monitored and tested by proper medical authorities.

There are currently 317 confirmed cases in the state.

Zika was first discovered in 1947 in Uganda and it was transmitted through monkeys.

It was later identified in humans in 1952.

Zika virus is primarily spread to people through mosquito bites. The virus can be spread from mother to child. Spread of the virus through blood transfusion and sexual contact has also been reported.

Most people infected with the virus have mild or no symptoms. For those who do develop symptoms, illness is generally mild and typically lasts a few days to a week. The most common symptoms of Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes).

“These symptoms are similar to Chikungunya and dengue fever,” Chavez said. “About 80 percent of those with Zika will not show symptoms. Free testing is being offered around the county.”

Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon and fatalities are rare. An increase in microcephaly was noted during an outbreak of Zika virus in Brazil in 2015.

To combat complications during pregnancy the Centers for Disease Control has established the National Zika Pregnancy Registry. Texas has reported 234 individuals to the CDC’s Zika Pregnancy Registry. The registry includes pregnant women with laboratory evidence of Zika infection and their infants, regardless of laboratory evidence. Texas provides data to the Zika Pregnancy Registry weekly, Chavez said.

The registry casts a wider net — beyond reported Zika cases — to track pregnancies that may have been impacted by Zika.

The registry counts any pregnant woman or newborn who receives care in Texas and who also meets requirements stated above.

To be reported as a Zika disease case in pregnancy, the pregnant woman has to have had one or more clinical signs or symptoms compatible with Zika and also have a positive Zika test result.

Chavez and Hernandez both say that of the babies born in Cameron County where the mother tested positive for Zika, none have signs of any abnormalities or defects.

The county plans to establish a program that will allow them to monitor these women and their babies for up to one year after birth, ensuring there are no long-term side effects.

Chavez and Hernandez said information regarding Zika is updated weekly.

Both county officials encourage the public to utilize every resource when learning about Zika.

To help spread the world, the county was recently awarded funding to help with prevention efforts.

The new funds will be used for additional equipment, including sprayers for vector control, but more importantly it will allow the county to bring on some temporary experts.

That includes a data analyst, epidemiology technicians, a health educator and a health inspector. Their focus will be solely on Zika, Hernandez said.

Officials will work with all the municipalities, and talk about trapping and how to implement a Zika response plan.

They will also create new educational materials that are geared toward residents of Cameron County and medical providers, Chavez said.

Get tested at

these locations

Harlingen Public Health Center

Phone: 956-423-3516

Address: 711 N “L” St. Harlingen

San Benito Public Health Clinic

Phone: 956-361-8244

Address: 1390 W. Expressway 83

By the

numbers

Cameron County

To date 33 cases of Zika have been confirmed

6 locally acquired cases

17 travel related cases, 9 of those are pregnant women

5 Zika infections, 4 of those are pregnant women

5 currently being tested, 4 of those are pregnant women

All 33 range in age from 18 to 29

State

To date 317 cases of Zika have been confirmed

2 of those cases are sexually acquired

6 of those cases are locally acquired

The others are travel related