Officials Working to Prevent Local, Travel-Related Zika Case

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WESLACO – Hidalgo County health officials are switching gears in their fight against Zika.

Hidalgo Health and Human Services Chief Executive Officer Eddie Olivarez said it comes after nearly a year of mosquitoes testing negative for the virus.

"We've been very fortunate that we have no localized cases of Zika. We've done over 5,600 analyses," he said.

Olivarez said out of the thousands of people tested, only two cases have turned up positive. He said those cases are travel-related.

"So, right now the majority of all our cases – in fact, there's been a couple of travelers we've picked who have traveled into areas that have Zika,” he said.

He said they're now taking a new approach to keeping localized cases from swarming the Valley.

"So, the concern for us is not necessarily the mosquito it's more the human. That human transferring Zika to our local mosquitoes and then our local mosquitoes will lay eggs and their offspring will have Zika and that's how the whole thing starts,” he explained.

Olivarez believes localized cases will spark from travel-related cases saying the Valley is a revolving door of travelers

"Just with the fluidness of our border and a lot of crossing back and forth, it's just a matter of time for us to get the local case,” he said.

Health officials are in contact with their counterparts across the border. Olivarez said several hundred cases exist between Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo.

With summer in full swing and vacations underway, it's raising the concern for local transmission.

"A lot of people for vacation they're going to places where there is Zika. I would advise anyone who's not going on vacation get on cdc.gov. Look up Zika sites that way you can plan your vacation accordingly,” he advised.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS checked in with a local travel agency. Sofia Del Toro said her employees are keeping their clients aware about their desired travel destinations.

"We always tell them to wear long pants, long-sleeve shirts and insect repellants and avoid the brushy areas," she said.

Del Toro said some customers are deciding to switch destinations or cancel their vacation plans altogether.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has put the entire Rio Grande Valley on a health alert for Zika. Pregnant women in the area are advised to get tested for Zika. The rest of the public should consider testing if you are showing at least two symptoms.

Symptoms of Zika area rash, red eyes, joint pain and fever. The disease is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito, though it can also spread by sexual contact. 

Link: Zika in Texas


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