By Theresa D. McClellan
For the Star
All the cases were acquired through travel, according to authorities. But in their efforts to keep on top of the situation, the Houston Health Department is now able to test for the virus in people living in Houston and 17 surrounding counties, according to Kathy Barton, chief public affairs officer for the Houston Health Department.
Kalia Thompson, health information specialist with the Fort Bend County Department of Health, confirmed there is one case in Fort Bend County but would not provide any additional information. She said they would continue sending tests to the state but declined further comment.
Houston can now perform the Zika test in one day, speeding up the turn around time since the department previously needed to ship samples to the Centers for Disease Control for confirmation, Barton said.
The virus is spread primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis or red eye. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week.
People usually won’t get sick enough to go to the doctor. Bu it can be spread from a pregnant woman to her baby, during pregnancy.
There is no real treatment, however, Houston health officials want to know if anyone who travelled to the Caribbean and to Central and South American countries were exposed. Since it can be transmitted sexually, the health department is asking men who have travelled to use condoms, said Barton.
The virus has caused birth defects with babies suffering from abnormally tiny heads.
“So little is known. We’re just learning about microcephaly,” said Barton.
“It’s not something we want to take lightly,” said Barton. “Because so little is known, even though the initial infection may be mild, the consequences to infants is astronomical.”
“We’re doing it for the babies.” Barton added.
Physicians wanting to test with Houston must contact their local health department or the Texas Department of State Health Services’ Region 6/5S Zoonology Division to secure Zika testing approval.
Here are some measures to keep mosquitoes at bay:
Since mosquitoes like to feed right around the house, Barton suggest the following:
-Keep areas of water around the home clean.
-Wear long sleeves and pants and use DEET.
-Clean up your yard keeping everything tidy and trim.
-Eliminate all standing water in pots and toys.