A pregnant woman is the first person diagnosed with Zika in Montgomery County, say Texas public health officials. They did not indicate where the woman contracted the virus, only that it was on travel outside of the United States to a known Zika-infested region.
The Montgomery County Public Health District did not release any information on what trimester the woman was in her pregnancy. They only reported she lives in Porter, located within the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown metropolitan statistical area.
“I am conferring with the appropriate public health and county officials on our mosquito abatement efforts to ensure Montgomery County is taking appropriate steps to aid in mosquito control,” said County Judge Craig Doyal in a statement Thursday. He noted that health district officials asked county residents “to take every precaution to protect themselves from mosquitoes” including wearing EPA-approved insect repellents and long sleeves as well as mosquito-proofing their homes by removing standing water from all outdoor receptacles. They advised fixing window screens and using air conditioning, if available.
As of September 1, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has accounted for 147 cases of Zika, all of which reportedly originated from travel to active Zika regions outside the continental U.S., including six pregnant women plus two infants infected in utero.
While most people who contract Zika experience mild to no symptoms, the population at greatest risk are pregnant women and their unborn children. In July, the first Texas baby, a boy, was born with Zika-related microcephaly, the birth defect where newborns have small heads as a result of brains that never fully develop. Then, in early August, the State confirmed its first infant Zika fatality, a girl, also born with microcephaly. While pregnant, the mother traveled to Latin America. Both of these cases occurred in Harris County, adjacent to Montgomery County.
Texas Medicaid announced it will cover the costs of up to two cans of mosquito repellent per month through October 31 for eligible women between the ages of 10 and 45, or pregnant, through their affiliated programs.
Of the six neighboring counties to Montgomery County, Harris reported 40 cases of Zika and Waller, one.
On Wednesday, east Texas health district officials confirmed Angelina County’s first case. The unidentified resident was infected through sexual contact with a partner who traveled to a Zika-affected region, according to health district administrator Sharon Shaw. Earlier this year, Dallas County reported the nation’s first straight and gay sexually transmitted incidents of Zika, also acquired through physical contact with sexual partners already infected.
The City of Denton recently reported its first case of following a resident’s travel to Puerto Rico. Public health officials said this marked the fifth person with the virus in Denton County. As a precaution, the county sprayed.
Texas continues to roll out statewide precautionary measures even though there are no reports of local mosquitoes transmitting Zika. Meteorological experts warned that tropical storms and hurricanes could help spread the virus along the Texas Gulf Coast. Last winter, Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, voiced concerns this area could be hardest hit in a Zika outbreak. He cited Houston’s economically depressed areas as prime breeding grounds for Zika-carrying mosquitoes to reproduce near the human population.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito, indigenous to Texas, carries Zika. Originally, experts feared a Miami-like “transmission cycle.” Now, DSHS does not anticipate widespread transmission across the state but small Zika pockets, similar to Dengue Fever, another virus spread in Texas by the same mosquitoes.
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