Wednesday, Tarrant County announced that it's identified its second and third Zika virus cases of the winter. One patient traveled recently to Puerto Rico, the other to El Salvador, both of which are currently in the midst of a Zika outbreak. No other identifying information about the patients has been released. Despite both Tarrant County and Dallas County recently equipping labs to test for Zika, samples from the patients were sent outside the region for initial testing before the positive results were confirmed at local labs.
In adults, Zika symptoms, if they appear at all, are mostly mild, consisting of things like a minor rash, headaches or joint pain. Zika's true danger, as supported by new research released this week, occurs when the disease is contracted by pregnant women. Children of women infected with Zika, the research suggests, are at an increased risk for microcephaly, a birth defect that causes children to be born with abnormally small brains and heads.
Risk of an outbreak in Texas will not peak until mosquito season. A breed of the bug common to North Texas, the Aedes mosquito, can transmit the virus, increasing the likelihood that it could be transmitted to pregnant women. To limit potential exposure, Tarrant County has designed a Zika Home Care Kit that it will distribute to residents being evaluated for Zika. People can also make their own kits at home, thanks to the county's handy instructions.
“This is a good reminder to Texans that Zika virus is slowly arriving. It is already changing many of our daily routines, like wearing mosquito repellent when outside whether it’s day or night,” Tarrant County Health Director Vinny Taneja said Wednesday. “We are providing these kits as an education tool to remind residents what they can do to protect themselves and their families from mosquito-borne illnesses."
Dallas County has identified four cases of Zika among its residents. Three of those cases involved patients traveling to areas affected by the virus, while one woman, the first to contract and test positive for Zika in Dallas County, contracted the virus sexually. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has suggested that pregnant women planning a spring trip avoid areas currently suffering a Zika virus outbreak.
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