- February 29, 2016

Zika Virus Hits Travis County. Here’s What You Need to Know.

As of February 29, the Zika virus has reared its ugly head for a second time in Travis County, as two residents have tested positive for the virus, according to the City of AustinBoth of these persons had exposure to infected mosquitos while in the country of Colombia. One is a male under the age of 50; the second is a female under the age of 50.”

This is the first time that tests have returned a positive result in the Austin area. Previously “five Travis County residents, with travel histories to countries where Zika virus transmission is occurring, have tested negative for Zika virus. Two of these persons were pregnant,” notes the City of Austin website.

If you’ve not been manically hitting the refresh button on the city’s website or monitoring your Zika virus Google alerts, here are a few pertinent details regarding the spread of the virus in Travis County and beyond:

The first case of Zika in Travis County,a male who contracted the virus while traveling in Colombia, was announced on February 4The City of Austin’s website lists the most common symptoms of Zika virus as “fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week.” According to KXAN, Zika statistics break down as such: Total U.S. Zika cases from returning travelers=107, Texas cases=13. Scientists say climate change is the largest contributing factor helping to spread the virus since the carriers can live in new places due to changing seasonal temps; fortunately, the City of Austin is taking big steps to address our contribution to climate change.

The primary spread of the virus comes from mosquitos, particularly the Aedes aegypti, though recent cases have shown that the virus is also spread through sexual contact. An official CDC Health advisory contains more information regarding this method of transmission, including recommendations for the prevention of transmission through sexual contact. The Center for Disease Control also offers up some helpful tips on avoiding mosquitos. 

Results of the Zika virus in pregnant females are children born with microcephaly, where babies are born with unusually small heads, and “the infant’s brain may not have developed properly during pregnancy or may have stopped growing in the first years of life. These children may experience a range of problems, like developmental delays, intellectual deficits or hearing loss,” according to The New York Times. This outbreak has become such a global issue that on February 1, World Health Organization officials declared a “public health emergency of international concern” regarding the Zika virus, a very rare designation. This is only the fourth illness for which the WHO has made this designation, other times for swine flu, Ebola, and polio.

For further information, The New York Times has published a very informative article: Short Answers to Hard Questions about Zika Virus.