As we approach the wetter months here in the Borderland, El Paso Water – along with local health officials – are looking to inform residents on the threat of the Zika Virus.
The World Health Organization has declared Zika a public health emergency, and while the vast majority of cases are outside the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is monitoring hundreds of cases in the United States.
Texas has had 63 reported cases. To date, no cases have been reported in El Paso.
“El Paso Water is pleased to partner with The City Public Health Department and Environmental Services and other community partners on the ‘Zika Zero’ campaign, said Lisa Rosendorf, El Paso Water spokeswoman and member of the City’s Zika Task Force.
“We all need to learn what actions to take to protect ourselves and our families from this virus,” she added.
For that reason, Rosendorf is encouraging the public to attend the “Zika Zero at TecH20: A Family Learning Event,” Saturday at 10751 Montana. The event, which will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., is free to the public.
Experts will share information with adults on travel advisories, health risks and Zika transmission.
The event will also feature educational activities for children, including the opportunity to look through microscopes at mosquitoes with scientists from the University of Texas at El Paso.
The CDC notes that Zika is spread by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti species mosquito—aggressive daytime biters that can also bite at night. The CDC also warns that the virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects.
While many people infected with the virus won’t show any symptoms, common signs include: fever, rash and joint pain. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
As a proactive measure to ensure that El Paso residents limit breeding grounds and the possibility for mosquito-transmitted diseases, the City of El Paso Department of Public Health has asked the public to toss any items around the exterior of their home that retain water.
Health officials have said that rains create breeding grounds for mosquitos that are often responsible for spreading diseases such as the West Nile Virus and have the potential to introduce Zika to the El Paso area.
Health department spokesman Armando Saldivar said the reason the City, County and other partners are working together to get the word out on Zika in the region is because if just one person is infected with the virus, a simple mosquito bite to that person could start a chain reaction and spread the virus.
“Unlike other mosquito-borne viruses, with Zika, an uninfected mosquito can be infected if it bites a person carrying the virus,” Saldivar said. “This creates the possibility of ballooning cases if we don’t prevent transmission. This is why we are pushing for zero cases in the region.”
Aside from urging people to eliminate retaining water from homes and yards, health and city officials are also encouraging residents to take the following safety measures during mosquito season.
Wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants
Stay in cool places with air conditioning and windows and door screens to keep mosquitos outside
Use insect repellents
For more information visit www.EPHealth.com under the Zika Virus page.