All other US cases of Zika this year have been among travelers
Health officials: Infected individual no longer a risk to the community
A resident of Hidalgo County, Texas who has now recovered from the Zika virus was probably infected within the county, local and state health officials said Wednesday. This represents the first locally transmitted case of the virus reported in the continental United States this year.
“Because the individual has not recently traveled outside the area or had any other risk factors, the infection was probably transmitted by a mosquito bite in South Texas sometime in the last few months,” according to a joint statement from the Texas Department of State Health Services and Hidalgo County Health and Human Services. There is currently no risk of the virus spreading within the community or mosquitoes, they said adding there is no evidence of local transmission anywhere in the state at this time. However, surveillance of individuals and mosquitoes is ongoing.
Zika is a great concern to pregnant women and those hoping to become pregnant because it can have devastating consequences for babies born to mothers who were infected while pregnant. One in 10 Zika-infected mothers had babies with related birth defects in the US last year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In April, Texas expanded Zika testing in pregnant women and those with possible symptoms in six counties deemed most at risk for the virus. Surveillance and mosquito control measures were also enhanced in those counties.
On Monday the CDC updated its recommendations on screening pregnant women for the virus. Pregnant women who have traveled to an area where the virus is circulating are now only advised to be tested for the virus if they have symptoms which can include fever, rash, joint pain, headaches and red eyes. The exception to this is for those who have had a possible indication of Zika-related findings of their fetus in an ultrasound.
Pregnant women living in an area of transmission should still be screened even if they do not have symptoms. The changes were made because of a decline in the number of reported cases of the virus and limitations in reading the test results, which are subject to false positives.
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Last November and December, Texas became the second state in the continental US, after Florida, to experience local transmission of the mosquito borne disease that is also sexually transmitted. Six cases were reported in Brownsville, Texas.
According to the CDC, of the 5,392 cases of the virus reported in the continental US and Hawaii since the outbreak began in 2016, 224 were the result of locally transmitted mosquitoes, 48 were sexually transmitted and one individual was infected in a lab while conducting research on the virus.
“Although the number of Zika cases being reported at this time is lower than at the peak of the epidemic in 2016, CDC expects Zika virus will continue to circulate at low levels in most regions where it has been introduced,” said a statement from the CDC.