The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) announced today the confirmation of the second travel-related case of Zika virus in the area. A non-pregnant woman tested positive for the virus following travel to Puerto Rico.
The island has been identified as a Zika affected area where active mosquito transmission of Zika is currently taking place.
“This individual spent a week in this affected area and started showing symptoms shortly after returning to El Paso on August 17th,” said Robert Resendes, Public Health Director. “This person has since self-isolated, but this latest case is another reminder to the community to protect themselves, especially when traveling to highly affected areas.”
Earlier this week the DPH announced a third case of West Nile virus in the area and in order to prevent the spread of several types of mosquito-borne diseases, personal protection is essential.
In regards to Zika, the DPH is 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, anyone who travels to a Zika-affected area should either abstain from sexual activity, or use condoms correctly and consistently for the following amount of time.
- Men who have symptoms or are diagnosed with Zika – consider using condoms or not having sex for at least 6 months after symptoms begin.
- Women who have symptoms or are diagnosed with Zika – consider using condoms or not having sex for at least 8 weeks after symptoms begin.
- Men and Women with no symptoms – consider using condoms or not having sex for at least 8 weeks after returning from travel.
Couples who are expecting should use condoms correctly, every time they have any type of sexual activity or do not have sex for the entire 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 who 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.
Zika virus is a generally mild illness that is spread primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito.
Common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes), lasting from several days to one week. The following prevention methods are highly encouraged to prevent many mosquito-borne diseases including Zika and West Nile virus:
- Apply EPA-approved insect repellent. (Follow manufacturer’s instructions)
- Wear pants and long-sleeve shirts that cover exposed skin. In warmer weather, wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that covers exposed skin.
- Use screens or close windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of your home.
- “Tip and Toss” – Remove standing water in and around the home. This includes water in cans, toys, tires, plant saucers, and any container that can hold water.
- Cover trash cans or containers where water can collect.
- To avoid infecting local mosquitoes, people who travel to areas with active Zika transmission should apply insect repellent every time they go outside for at least three weeks after they return to Texas – and longer if they develop an illness that could be Zika.
Efforts to combat Zika and the mosquitoes that transmit the disease began locally here in El Paso 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.
The DPH has provided thousands of informational materials both in print and online to key stakeholders including doctor’s offices, recreation centers, and through our clinical venues. These materials continue to be made available and are updated on the webpage.
We continue to offer educational presentations to local groups through our Speakers Bureau and invite all members of the community to share our social media posts via Facebook and Twitter as well as public service announcements via the City’s YouTube channel.
In addition to the educational efforts, the DPH has purchased and begun distributing Zika prevention kits. These kits, which include a can of mosquito repellant, will be distributed to pregnant and child bearing age women participating in the WIC program as well as those living in the colonias.
In regards to mosquito control, the Vector Control Program of the City’s Environmental Services Department continues to actively treat areas throughout the region and monitor for mosquitoes. This includes numerous fogging events throughout the county twice a week. Monitoring efforts included the trapping and testing of more than two dozen mosquito traps.
This allows the City to closely monitor mosquito activity in our region. Other efforts include inspecting and treating any stagnant water, which includes checking vacant houses with pools and those without pools. To report standing water or other mosquito breeding sites, please call 3-1-1.
The mission of the Department of Public Health is to provide research and evaluation, prevention, intervention, and mobilization services to the people of El Paso so they can be healthy, productive, safe, and secure. For more information on the programs and services offered by the Department of Public Health, visit EPHealth.com or dial 2-1-1.