An El Paso man has tested positive for the Zika virus. which he contracted while traveling in Florida.
It’s the first case of the mosquito-borne virus in the area, city public health officials said at a news conference Monday at City Hall.
City Public Health Director Robert Resendes said that the man was believed to have become infected in Miami, which is the only location in the continental U.S. where there has been locally-acquired cases of the virus.
“It wasn’t picked up in El Paso, the person traveled to Florida, got bitten by mosquitoes there, got infected and then came back home and was diagnosed in El Paso,” Resendes said. “No longer infectious, not a danger to anyone. El Paso is still safe because there is no mosquito transmission of Zika.”
The infected man is recovering after blood and urine samples were tested and found that he had the Zika virus, public health officials said.
City public health officials said that the case is the first Zika virus case in the El Paso area. There is no vaccine to prevent Zika infection.
The Zika virus is spread primarily by the bite of infected Aedes species of mosquitoes but it can also be spread by sexual transmission, according to materials from the El Paso public health department and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Most people with the Zika virus have no symptoms or have mild symptoms but the Zika virus during pregnancy can cause microcephally, a severe birth defect impacting the development of a baby’s brain and causing the baby’s head to be much smaller than normal, health authorities said.
The CDC reports that Zika virus disease symptoms can last a few days to a week and include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes) and possibly headaches and muscle pain. The infected rarely die of the illness.
The CDC has issue travel advisories for pregnant women and women with a male partner who travels to Zika affected areas, including Mexico, South and Central America, the Caribbean and Pacific islands. Women should talk to their doctor about pregnancy plans if they or their partner travel to Zika affected areas.
The CDC reports nearly 2,000 travel-related cases of the Zika virus in the U.S. and about six locally acquired mosquito-borne cases in the nation. There have been 108 travel-related cases of the Zika virus in Texas, according to state health authorities.
El Paso public health officials said that the best way to prevent Zika is to prevent mosquito bites and not to let mosquitoes breed in standing water.
“Don’t let them breed,” Resendes said. “By the time they (mosquitoes) are adults and have wings, they are very difficult to kill.”
Female mosquitoes can lay hundreds of eggs that attach to the walls of containers with standing water. Residents are urged to remove standing water from their homes, such as water collected in tires, buckets, flowerpots and old toys.
Mosquitoes that spread the Zika virus are aggressive daytime biters but can also bite at night, according to materials provided by the city public health department. Residents can help prevent mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants and use insect repellent.
“Zika is here,” Resendes said.
For more information, visit the El Paso Department of Public Health Zika virus webpage at www.elpasotexas.gov/public-health/current-events/zika-virus-page
Daniel Borunda may be reached at 546-6102; firstname.lastname@example.org; @BorundaDaniel on Twitter.
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