Fort Worth

Two new Zika cases confirmed in Tarrant County

This file photo shows a female Aedes aegypti mosquito in the process of acquiring a blood meal from a human host.
This file photo shows a female Aedes aegypti mosquito in the process of acquiring a blood meal from a human host. AP

Two more Tarrant County residents have contracted the Zika virus after traveling to other countries.

All told, Tarrant County has now seen three Zika cases, but Tarrant County Public Health officials stress there has been no local transmission of the virus.

The first patient traveled to Puerto Rico and the second patient contracted Zika while in El Salvador, the health agency said in a a news release. Both countries have had local transmission of Zika, which can be carried by mosquitoes that bite infected humans. The identities of the patients are not being released to protect their privacy.

The agency’s North Texas Regional Laboratory did not conduct the tests. Instead, the samples went to public health labs elsewhere before the Tarrant County and Dallas County labs were validated to test for the virus.

“This is a good reminder to Texans that Zika virus is slowly arriving,” Tarrant County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja said. “It is already changing many of our daily routines, like wearing mosquito repellant when outside whether it’s day or night.”

 
 

The Texas Department of State Health Services says there are 21 Zika cases statewide.

Tarrant County Public Health has created a Zika Home Care Kit for limited distribution to Tarrant County residents being evaluated for Zika. The kit includes mosquito repellent, mosquito dunks, educational materials and other items.

“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,” Taneja said.

More information about about how to put together your own kit is available on Tarrant County’s website.

Zika virus has been linked to a serious birth defect of the brain in babies of mothers who had the virus while pregnant.

The virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito, a known aggressive daytime biter that is found in Texas. These mosquitoes are also known for spreading chikungunya and dengue fever, two other illnesses that have flourished in parts of the Americas. The Culex mosquito, which bites at night as well as dawn and dusk, carries the West Nile virus.

Sexual transmission of Zika has also been confirmed in a few cases. Zika symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis, or red eyes. The illness is typically mild with symptoms lasting no more than seven days.

“Our healthcare providers are on alert for Zika virus, and paying close attention to patients with recent travel to countries with local transmission of the disease,” Taneja said.

The mosquito kills nearly 750,000 people each year. Malaria is the cause for the majority of these deaths, but a Zika outbreak has the Americas scared of this insect. This is how the insect spreads disease to its victims.

Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @fwhanna

More info on Zika

Residents are encouraged to maintain their property to reduce mosquito breeding sites, especially with mosquito season quickly approaching. These include:

  • Routinely dump standing water.
  • Overturn all small containers.
  • Dispose of any trash or debris that can contain small amounts of water.
  • For information, Tarrant County residents can call the health department’s Zika Hotline, 817-248-6299.
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