Local health authorities urge precaution in light of Zika virus

Local health authorities urge precaution in light of Zika virus

Health authorities in Jefferson County are urging precautions following the World Health Organization's decision Monday to declare the Zika virus an international emergency in the Americas.

Plus, seven cases have been confirmed in the Houston area, all from patients who have traveled to Latin America.

The fact that the type of mosquito that carries the virus lives in most of the western hemisphere, including the US, means the Zika virus is likely to come to southeast Texas.

The Aedes mosquito carries the virus.

There are no cases of the virus here right now, according to the Jefferson County Public Health Department.

But locals aren't taking precautions lightly.

Enrique Reyes and his mom Mayra Alvarez live in Port Arthur but travel to Mexico often.

The country is part of a growing list of 28 territories and countries where the Centers for Disease Control ask to practice enhanced precautions due to the Zika virus.

Pregnant women are asked to reconsider travel to much of Latin America, because the virus is known to cause birth defects in babies’ brains.

We translated for Mayra Alvarez who said in Spanish: It’s really sad, and truthfully it’s worrying, but by all means … try to avoid as much as possible being outside and the time of the day the mosquitoes are out.

Doctors said the virus is spread through mosquito bites.

The symptoms are relatively harmless – a fever, pink eye, a mild skin rash and sore joints.

Dr. Cecil Walkes, the health authority for the Jefferson County Public Health Department, said the disease is not fatal, and if you are not pregnant, nothing harmful may happen.

But Dr. Walkes said it can be “devastating to the fetus and devastating to the mother."

If you come down with Zika-like symptoms, Dr. Walkes said seek medical attention.

People like Alvarez said she will take precaution against the mosquitoes.

In Spanish she said: We try to avoid places where there's stagnant water. And we also put on mosquito repellant when we go out in the country – where there are groups of mosquitoes.

The public health department said in the next few days, they will alert local doctor's offices of the virus.


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