Is the Zika virus in Texas?

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The recent rains have been great for the Edwards Aquifer, but we all know they’re also good for mosquitoes. Even though the Centers for Disease Control reported much lower incidences of Zika in 2018, people should still take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

What is Zika?

The Zika virus is part of the same family as the viruses that cause yellow fever, West Nile, chikungunya and dengue. It is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito. Zika can also be transmitted sexually. It can pose a danger to pregnant women because the virus can be transmitted to the fetus.

Is Zika deadly?

No. In fact, it’s often confused with the flu, because symptoms tend to be similar. According to Dr. Jason Bowling, associate professor for the Department of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at UT Health San Antonio, most people with Zika virus infection, or roughly about 80 percent, will not have any symptoms.

For those who do, the symptoms tend to be mild and last for a few days to a week. Hospitalization is not common. There have been rare cases of Guillain-Barre reported following suspected Zika virus infection. Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare condition in which your immune system attacks your nerves, leading to muscle weakness and even paralysis. The biggest concern is that an infected pregnant woman can pass the virus to her fetus. Fetal infection can cause microcephaly and other severe brain defects. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine or prophylactic medicine to protect against the Zika virus.

According to the City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, symptoms typically begin 2 to 7 days after contracting Zika, and the best one can do is drink plenty of water and rest. The symptoms can be:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Joint pains (arthralgia)
  • Muscle pain
  • Redness of the eyes (conjunctivitis)

In 2016, the CDC reported 5,168 cases of Zika in the United States with 312 in Texas. That year, the CDC gave Texas $36 million to fight the epidemic. The State of Texas spent $2.5 million in a public outreach campaign. So far in 2018, the CDC has only reported 41 Zika cases in the U.S.; three reported cases in Texas.

Mosquito season ends in early November, but before then, here are some things you can do to prevent getting bitten:

  • Stay indoors if possible.
  • Eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites around the home by emptying flower pots, buckets or other items that collect water.
  • Use insect repellant that contains Deet, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. Do not use insect repellant on babies younger than 2 months old. When used as directed, these active insect repellents are proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
  • Wear long sleeves, pants and socks.
  • Prior to any travel outside the United States, check for potential infection risks so appropriate precautions can be taken.

More information can be found on University Health System’s Zika page.