North Texas Daily

First Zika case in Denton confirmed

First Zika case in Denton confirmed

Courtesy | Bing

First Zika case in Denton confirmed
April 14
02:20 2016

Alejandro Medellin | Staff Writer


County health officials said this week that a Denton County woman has the Zika virus, the first confirmed case of the virus in the area since international outcry began last year.

The woman, whose name and age were not released to the public, traveled to St. Martin in the Caribbean in late January, where officials believe she contracted the virus. This news comes just days after the CDC said there is now no doubt Zika is linked to microcephaly – a birth defect in which a newborn’s head is much smaller than expected.

“There is little to no risk,” chief epidemiologist for Denton County Health Department Juan Rodriguez said of the virus spreading. “But it’s hard to predict what would happen, and it could come here like any other county.”

Rodriguez added that people, especially pregnant women, should avoid areas with dense mosquito populations. Expecting mothers who contract the virus may infect their child, resulting in microcephaly.

“It’s kind of scary because it’s here in Denton, but I really don’t know much about it,” applied science freshman Hailey Wolfington said. “I feel bad for pregnant women and children because they could possibly be affected by it.”

The virus can be contracted if bitten by an infected Aedes species mosquito, and can spread when a mosquito bites a person with the virus, spreading it further. Health officials advise people with the virus to avoid mosquitos at all costs.

“I was outside the other day playing with my dog and the mosquitoes were eating me alive and I was like, ‘I need to go inside,’ because I didn’t have any repellent,” Wolfington said. “People should probably carry repellent around everywhere, like in their cars.”

The virus can also be contracted through sexual contact. Only men can spread the virus through sexual contact.

“I’m scared for the women and the children and I think it’s worth raising money for, but it’s not something that scares me personally,” psychology sophomore Shane Ivey said.

The Zika virus was discovered in 1947, named after the Zika Forest in Uganda where the discovery was made. The first human case of the virus was detected in 1952 and since then has been reported in various parts of the world.

Before last year’s outbreak there were very few reported cases of the virus because it shares similar symptoms with other diseases and is not inherently fatal. There is proof that being infected with the virus once may stave it off the next time around.

On Feb. 1, the World Health Organization declared the virus a public health emergency of international concern. This came after a May 2015 notice of the first case reported in Brazil by the Pan American Health Organization.

When travelling to affected areas, the CDC recommends sleeping in a bed with mosquito netting, wearing pants and long-sleeve shirts and staying in areas with air conditioning and screened windows to keep mosquitos out. 

“It’s going to be hard to do as a preventative when it is so hot in Texas,” Ivey said.

There is currently no known cure for the disease and symptoms include rash, fever, joint pain or conjunctivitis, but most people do not have symptoms. The virus may last in the blood system for a week, or longer in some patients.  Those who have the virus are recommended to rest and drink lots of fluids.

When travelling to a foreign country it is advised to check on the list of countries with active cases on the Center for Disease Control’s website. If thought to have the virus, avoid being bitten by other mosquitos that may further spread the disease to other people.

“We want Denton County residents to take precautions when traveling abroad to avoid mosquito bites, and for pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant to delay their travel to countries with current Zika transmission,” Denton County Health Director Dr. Matt Richardson said.

Featured Image: Courtesy | Zibatar

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