Texas health officials investigating the state’s first suspected case of locally-acquired Zika virus infection have identified four additional infections in Cameron County that were likely transmitted from mosquito bites.
According to a news release, the patients live in close proximity to the first case, which was reported on Nov. 28. The patients developed Zika-like symptoms between Nov. 29 and Dec.1, and were probably infected days earlier before mosquito control efforts were intensified, officials said. None of the patients are pregnant.
“These cases were found through careful public health work and collaboration at the local, state and federal levels, and we’ll continue to follow through with the investigation and additional surveillance to identify other cases and other places experiencing local mosquito transmission of Zika,” John Hellerstedt, MD, commissioner of health for the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), said in the release. “That information will be crucial to any future public health guidance.”
Public health workers from the DSHS and Cameron County are visiting people in an eight-block area near the homes of identified cases to offer testing services and educate residents on Zika virus and how to eliminate mosquito habitats, the release said. The City of Brownsville sprayed for mosquitoes after the first case was reported and has since observed a decrease in the number of mosquitoes over the past 2 weeks.
“The combination of mosquito control and colder weather has decreased mosquito activity in Cameron County and greatly decreased the probability of more widespread mosquito transmission of Zika right now,” Hellerstedt said. “However, winters are mild in southern Texas, and mosquito populations can rebound even during short periods of warmer weather. Whenever you see mosquito activity, protect yourself and your family from bites.”
In response to the additional cases, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission has indefinitely established a Medicaid benefit for mosquito repellent in Cameron County while state health officials continue to investigate the scope of transmission.
Texas is the second U.S. state to report cases of locally transmitted Zika. The CDC has identified 185 mosquito-borne infections in Florida, as of Dec. 8. On Friday, the agency announced that there was no evidence of recent transmission in the last remaining area of Miami-Dade County that was actively reporting cases.
Disclosures: Hellerstedt is the commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.