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Health Department announces First Case of Zika in El Paso; Man Contracted Virus in Florida

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health announced Monday afternoon that an El Pasoan contracted the Zika virus after traveling to the Greater Miami area.

During a news conference, officials say the man traveled to Miami area, contracted the Zika virus while there and then returned to El Paso.  Officials added that the man was no longer infectious and that residents should remain vigilant against mosquitoes after recent rains.

“The patient provided blood and urine samples which were tested and came back positive. What we know is that this individual is recovering and is not considered a threat to the community,” said Robert Resendes, Public Health Director. “What we need is the community to take note that Zika virus is real, and we must protect ourselves and the community.”

The mosquito-borne virus has caused the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue travel warnings for pregnant women. The DPH is also encouraging anyone who may be traveling to Zika-affected regions including certain areas of Florida, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Pacific Islands, and U.S. territories to take strict precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes.

Because Zika can also be transmitted sexually, pregnant women with a male partner who travels to a Zika-affected area should either abstain from sexual activity, or use condoms correctly and consistently for the duration of their pregnancy to protect the unborn fetus from the risk of severe birth defects, including microcephaly.

Additionally, non-pregnant women of childbearing age who travel, or who have a male partner that travels, to a Zika-affected region, should talk with their healthcare providers about their pregnancy plans and take steps to avoid any unintended pregnancy, including correct and consistent condom use.

According to the Department of State Health Services, there are 108 reported cases of Zika virus disease in Texas.

Efforts to combat the Zika virus and the mosquitoes that transmit the disease began locally in February after an outbreak was detected in Brazil. On May 9 the DPH convened a stakeholders meeting with key officials in public health and other related fields. Contact with these groups continues as the threat of local transmission remains a possibility.

Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week.

Officials took the opportunity to again ask residents across the Borderland to take a proactive approach against mosquito-borne diseases by making sure they “Tip and Toss” items that are retaining water in their yards.  These mosquitoes are responsible for spreading various diseases such as West Nile virus and have the potential of bringing the Zika virus to our area.

The Department also wants to get residents in the habit of using the following additional prevention measures:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Stay in cool places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol.

(Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.)

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