McALLEN – State and local agencies came together for the State of Texas Active Response to Zika conference at the McAllen Convention Center to learn how 254 counties in Texas will work together in the event of a virus breakout.
According to TexasZika.org as of July 5 Texas has had 53 reported cases of the Zika virus disease. Of those 52 were in travelers who were infected abroad and diagnosed after they returned home. One of those travelers was a pregnant woman. One case involved a Dallas County resident who had sexual contact with someone who acquired the Zika infection while traveling abroad.
Hidalgo County has had zero reported cases of Zika virus. There is an investigation that is taking place in Monterrey, Mexico involving the Zika virus.
Hidalgo County Health & Human Services Chief Administrative Officer Eddie Olivarez said that from a border perspective the Zika case in Monterrey is a concern so a meeting like STARZ was necessary.
“We know from a border perspective [Zika] is close to our borders,” he said. “This conference in being here really focused on the onset of Zika in Mexico, southern countries and the possibility of it coming to the United States through Texas.”
The Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt was also on hand at the conference to provide three major points concerning the Zika virus.
According to Hellerstedt Texas is ready if there is a local mosquito vector transmission of Zika in the state. There is plan in place to collaborate with federal and local leaders to respond effectively.
“We're not expecting a flare up the way for instance, that has occurred in a country like Brazil,” Hellerstedt said. “We're expecting something much different if there are local transmissions of Zika virus in Texas.”
The flare ups in Texas would be limited to their geographic size and in terms of their duration of time. Hellerstedt continued by saying there is reason to believe that because of the knowledge state officials have on the biology of the mosquito.
Things that can be done to prevent Zika are simple and effective like using mosquito repellent and wearing long clothing.
“Protecting yourself from being bitten and denying the mosquito a place to breed around a human habitation, these are very simple things and very effective things,” Hellerstedt said. “But simple and effective isn't easy, the part that is hard about it is getting the word out.”
For more information about the Zika virus and a daily update of reported cases visit TexasZika.org.