Zika Virus Hits Texas: Will The Mosquito-Borne Disease Spread Through The United States?

Zika virus cases have now presented in Texas. Harris County health officials announced that at least one person has entered the region and brought back the mosquito-borne virus from Latin America.

The Zika virus is spread by the Aedes mosquito, which is native to only tropical and subtropical areas. Unfortunately, the disease-spreading insect has been spotted on every continent in the world except Antarctica, the Houston Press reports. This same species of mosquito is also responsible for carrying the dengue fever and chikungunya viruses. The insect becomes an infected carrier of the viruses after it bites a person who has had the affliction, the Houston Chronicle reports.

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, a warning to the United States that Zika virus was coming to our country was issued by the World Health Organization. The relatively new virus had spread to Mexico in December, bringing it all too close to the American border. Concerns that the ongoing influx of illegal immigrants along the Mexican border region in states such as Texas could bring the virus into the nation were strongly voiced by some residents.

There is no known cure for the Zika virus. Patients often present with a rash, fever, joint pain, an intense headache, and flu-like system. A report last month indicated that the non-lethal virus could be causing babies of previously infected mothers to be born with microcephaly.

The rare neurological condition causes babies to be born with an “abnormally small head” and “incomplete” brain development. The Mayo Clinic believes that microcephaly is caused by both genetic and environmental factors. There is no cure for the birth defect, and the only help doctors can offer is the implementation of supportive therapies if the condition is detected early. In 2015, approximately 3,000 babies in Brazil were born with the birth defect, making the number of cases of microcephaly usually found in the county increase tenfold. Some researchers feel that the Zika virus might also be a contributing factor for the Guillain-Barré syndrome. Seven infant deaths have been linked to the birth defect in Brazil over the course of the last year.

The first known case of the Zika virus reportedly presented during the 1940s in Uganda. Until early 2015, the virus had primarily been confined to just Africa and Asia. Not long after more than one million Central and South American cases were discovered, the virus started inching its way through Mexico and into the United States. During the final days of last year, the CDC reported that a case in Puerto Rice had occurred.

To date, the Zika virus has not infected the local Harris County mosquito population, but such a scenario could still occur and pose a significant health effect for both Texas residents and visitors. In 2014, during the height of the influx of illegal immigrant children into the county that sparked national headlines, the chikungunya virus showed up in the Harris County region.

Public health officials in the Texas county where the Zika virus has been detected are urging residents to “protect themselves” when traveling to areas where the disease has become almost commonplace. Dr. Umair Shah, the director of the Harris County health agency, added that pregnant women should take extra precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes and to seek medical help immediately if virus symptoms appear.

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