May 20, 2016
With the first Texas case of West Nile virus this year, the Texas Department of State Health Services reminds people to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites and transmission of the potentially deadly disease. The case was reported to DSHS today by the City of El Paso Department of Public Health.
Recent focus has been on Zika, an illness relatively new to the Western Hemisphere that has yet to be transmitted by mosquitoes in Texas. While health officials continue preparing for the possibility that Zika could spread in Texas, West Nile virus has made a return this summer. In 2015, West Nile caused 275 reported cases of illness in the state, including 16 deaths.
To reduce exposure to West Nile and other mosquito-borne viruses people should:
- Use an EPA-approved insect repellent, such as those containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus/para-menthane-diol. People should follow the instructions on the label and use repellent every time they go outside.
- Regularly drain standing water, including water collecting in empty cans, tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters and saucers under potted plants. Mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus breed in stagnant water.
- Wear long sleeves and pants when outside.
- Use air conditioning and make sure screens on all doors and windows are in good condition to keep mosquitoes from entering the home.
The same precautions will also help prevent Zika, though West Nile virus is primarily transmitted by Culex mosquitoes, which are most active around dawn and dusk, and Zika is spread by Aedes mosquitoes, which usually bite during the day.
There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile virus infection. People over 50 years old and those with other health issues are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying when they become infected with the virus. If people have symptoms and suspect West Nile virus infection, they should contact their healthcare provider.
Symptoms of West Nile fever include headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue. A more serious form of illness, West Nile neuroinvasive disease, can also cause neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis and coma.
DSHS will post West Nile case counts by county online.
Help Control Mosquitoes that Spread Zika Virus
May 2, 2016
Aside from being itchy and annoying, the bite of an infected female mosquito can spread dengue, chikungunya, or Zika viruses. A few infected mosquitoes can produce large outbreaks in a community and put your family at risk of becoming sick. This information sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has many simple tips to help protect yourself, your family and community from mosquitoes.
The CDC website offers additional information and resources regarding dengue, chikungunya and the Zika virus.
Tips for Pregnant Women to Prevent Zika Virus Infection
April 4, 2016
Pregnancy is an exciting time in a woman's life. There is so much to learn, including ways to protect yourself and your new baby from health risks. Recently, the Zika virus outbreak and its link to birth defects have been making the headlines. Zika may sound scary, but there are some basic steps pregnant women can take to protect themselves.
Why worry about Zika?
Zika is mostly spread by mosquito bites, primarily by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, but it can also be sexually transmitted from an infected man to his sex partners (as Zika is known to be spread from semen). There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika. The sickness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. People usually don't get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected.
For pregnant women, the concern is that Zika virus can be passed to the fetus during pregnancy or around the time of delivery, and infection during pregnancy has been linked to a serious birth defect called microcephaly and other problems in infants. But there is still a lot we don't know about Zika virus, including how likely it is that Zika virus will affect a pregnancy or result in birth defects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other organizations are doing research to try to answer these and other questions about Zika.
Prevention is key
CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women to protect themselves from Zika.
- Do not travel to areas with Zika. If you must travel to one of these areas, talk to your doctor first.
- Strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites. There are many ways to prevent mosquito bites:
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents. When used as directed, they are safe and effective for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Remember to apply sunscreen before repellent, and don't spray repellent underneath clothes.
- Even your fashion choices play a role in preventing bites: Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants protects your arms and legs. Permethrin is an insecticide that can be sprayed on fabric to prevent insect bites. Treating clothing with permethrin adds another layer of protection — just don't put it directly on your skin!
- Stay and sleep in places with air conditioning or window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. Sleep under a bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.
- Zika virus can also be sexually transmitted from a male partner. Right now we don't know how long Zika virus stays in semen. If you're pregnant and have a male partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika, either use condoms the right way, every time you have sex, or do not have sex while pregnant. Not having sex is the best way to be sure you don't get Zika from sex.
CDC is working around the clock to learn more about Zika and how it affects pregnancy and infants.
Check CDC's Zika website regularly to get the most up-to-date information.
Texas Takes Aim at Zika Virus
March 4, 2016
The Texas Department of State Health Services has ramped up efforts to protect people from Zika virus and is urging people to follow mosquito precautions.
“Mosquito season is approaching, and the number of travel-related cases continues to inch up for Texas. It’s only a matter of time before Zika virus is locally transmitted here by mosquitoes,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner.
While there is no evidence of local transmission by Texas mosquitoes now, state health officials have quickly implemented Zika virus prevention plans in anticipation of increased mosquito activity and the potential for local mosquito transmission. Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes can be found in Texas, particularly urban areas in the south and southeast portions of the state, but can live anywhere humans are present.
Texas has confirmed 18 cases of Zika virus disease. Seventeen of those are related to travel abroad to areas with active Zika transmission. One case, from Dallas County, was likely the result of sexual contact with someone who acquired the Zika infection while traveling abroad.
Texas is now testing for Zika virus at its public health lab in Austin. Current state lab capacity is up to 135 human specimens per week, and capacity across the state is increasing as local labs add testing capability in anticipation of a possible surge in demand. This testing, called polymerase chain reaction or “PCR” testing, is used to detect Zika virus in human specimens collected less than seven days after illness onset. The PCR test is considered confirmatory for the presence of Zika virus. Specific testing guidance is available at www.TexasZika.org.
Texas is also adding the more complex serologic testing for Zika virus. The benefit of serologic testing is that it can detect Zika infection in people who may not have had symptoms, and the test can be conducted up to 12 weeks after a person is infected. A positive serologic test result requires confirmatory testing to definitively pinpoint Zika because it can cross-react with other viruses, such as dengue.
Texas is working with local officials in the Rio Grande Valley area to monitor mosquito activity and conducted spot trapping in the area in February, which yielded no Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. The Rio Grande Valley is considered to be a potential area of increased risk of Zika virus transmission. DSHS is urging communities to consider expanding their surveillance in coordination with local mosquito control efforts.
The agency’s Birth Defects Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch is analyzing historical microcephaly data to better understand patterns, trends and causes of microcephaly in Texas. Microcephaly is a birth defect that may be linked to Zika virus infection in other parts of the world. Texas also is implementing the “rapid ascertainment” of microcephaly, which means the condition will be closely monitored going forward for Zika virus and other causes.
The Governor’s 31-member Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response, directed by Dr. Hellerstedt, will meet in Austin March 9 to discuss infectious disease prevention, and Zika will be part of that discussion.
Texas is urging health care providers to be aware of and consider Zika virus as they see patients. State health officials are actively coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local officials about surveillance, testing and mosquito control. Texas is educating the general public about Zika in English and Spanish through its new website www.TexasZika.org and will host a Zika-specific Twitter chat at 2 p.m. Friday, March 4.
“We’re focusing on urging people to strictly follow the guidance to prevent the disease,” Dr. Hellerstedt said. “We need everyone on board, helping to cut down mosquito populations and avoid mosquito bites as we head into spring.”
Take Action in Communities
DSHS today sent a letter to local leaders asking for help in protecting people from the Zika virus and outlining steps to prevent or delay Zika virus transmission by local mosquitoes. Eliminating potential mosquito breeding areas, especially near homes and communities, is an effective way to protect against all mosquito-borne diseases including Zika. These are the recommended actions local leaders can take to help protect communities from Zika virus:
- Initiate or enhance monitoring and surveillance of mosquito activity.
- Accelerate mosquito abatement efforts.
- Develop a local contingency plan for mosquito abatement and surveillance; plan for additional control measures if needed.
- Encourage people to report illegal dumpsites and standing water, and respond quickly to these complaints.
- Implement efforts to clean up illegal dumpsites and collect heavy trash.
- Keep public drains and ditches clear of weeds and trash so water will not collect.
- Treat standing water with larvicide (such as mosquito “dunks”) when it cannot be drained and the water will be present for more than seven days.
- Conduct neighborhood outreach about precautions people can take to protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites.
Take Action Around Homes
DSHS suggests the following steps people can take in and around their own homes to help reduce potential mosquito breeding habitats:
- At least weekly, empty or get rid of cans, buckets, old tires, pots, plant saucers and other containers that hold water.
- Keep gutters clear of debris and standing water.
- Remove standing water around structures and from flat roofs.
- Change water in pet dishes daily.
- Rinse and scrub vases and other indoor water containers weekly.
- Change water in wading pools and bird baths several times a week.
- Maintain backyard pools or hot tubs.
- Cover trash containers.
- Water lawns and gardens carefully so water does not stand for several days.
- Screen rain barrels and openings to water tanks or cisterns.
- Treat front and back door areas of homes with residual insecticides if mosquitoes are abundant nearby.
- If mosquito problems persist, consider pesticide applications for vegetation around the home.
Avoid Mosquito Bites
People living or traveling to areas with active transmission should carefully follow steps to avoid mosquito bites while there and for at least seven days after leaving the area. Precautions include:
- Wear insect repellent.
- Cover up with long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Keep mosquitoes out with air conditioning or intact window screens.
- Limit outdoor activities during peak mosquito times.
Zika virus is primarily spread to people through mosquito bites. The virus also can be spread from mother to unborn child or to her newborn around the time of birth. Spread of the virus through blood transfusion and sexual contact also has been reported.
The disease can cause fever, rash, muscle and joint aches and red eyes but also has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly and other poor birth outcomes in some women infected during their pregnancy. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week, and hospitalizations are rare. A small number of cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a paralysis disorder, also have been linked to Zika virus infection. Most people exposed to Zika virus won’t develop any symptoms at all. There is currently no vaccine or treatment for the virus.
Zika Virus Prevention ~ La prevención de virus Zika
February 24, 2016
- No vaccine exists
- No vaccine exists to prevent Zika virus disease (Zika).
- Prevent Zika by avoiding mosquito bites (see below).
- Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite mostly during the daytime.
- Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus also spread dengue and chikungunya viruses.
- Prevent sexual transmission of Zika by using condoms or not having sex
Steps to prevent mosquito bites
When traveling to countries where Zika virus or other viruses spread by mosquitoes are found, take the following steps:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breast-feeding women.
- Always follow the product label instructions.
- Reapply insect repellent as directed.
- Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
- If you have a baby or child:
- Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age.
- Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs, or
- Cover crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
- Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
- Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
- Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items.
- Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See product information to learn how long the protection will last.
- If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
- Do NOT use permethrin products directly on skin. They are intended to treat clothing.
If you have Zika, protect others from getting sick
- During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.
- To help prevent others from getting sick, avoid mosquito bites during the first week of illness.
- Zika virus can be spread by a man to his sex partners.
- We do not know how long the virus is present in the semen of men who have had Zika.
- We do know that the virus can be present in semen longer than in blood.
- To help prevent spreading Zika from sex, you can use condoms the right way every time you have sex. Not having sex is the best way to be sure that someone does not get sexually transmitted Zika virus.
If you are a man who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika
- If your partner is pregnant, either use condoms the right way every time you have vaginal, anal, and oral (mouth-to-penis) sex or they should not have sex during the pregnancy.
If you are concerned about getting Zika from a male sex partner
- You can use condoms the right way every time you have vaginal, anal, and oral (mouth-to-penis) sex. Condoms also prevent HIV and other STDs. Not having sex is the best way to be sure that you do not get sexually transmitted Zika virus.
Para traduce esta información al español, haga clic aquí.
Mosquitos can carry Chikungunya, Dengue and Zika viruses
February 15, 2016
Are you planning international travel to the tropics? Protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites that can make you sick.
Mosquito bites can be more than just annoying and itchy. They can make you really sick. Protect yourself and your family when traveling overseas. Wearing insect repellent is the best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes.
Learn more about protecting yourself from contracting these diseases at this Center for Disease Control website.
Information on Zika virus, update on Harris Co. infection
February 1, 2016
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a travel alert for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing: Brazil, Columbia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Until more is known, and out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant:
- Pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who must travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or other healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.
- Women trying to become pregnant who are thinking about becoming pregnant should consult with their healthcare provider before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or IR3535. Always use as directed.
- Insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, and IR3535 are safe for pregnant and nursing women and children older than 2 months when used according to the product label. Oil of lemon eucalyptus products should not be used on children under 3 years of age.
Symptoms include: fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week. Deaths are rare. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika virus infection. Contact your health care provider if you develop symptoms after returning from areas where Zika virus has been identified.
Information on Zika virus identified in Harris Co. may be viewed here.
Virus del Zika: Lo que usted necesita saber.