Harris County Public Health (HCPH) has confirmed the first Zika related microcephaly case in Harris County and in the State of Texas. HCPH received a positive Zika test result for an infant who has been diagnosed with microcephaly at birth. The mother, who traveled from Latin America, was tested for Zika, but had received inconclusive test results. Since the infant received a definitive positive lab result for Zika, it is suspected that the mother most likely carried the virus while pregnant, and presumably was infected in Latin America.
“Microcephaly is one of the worst tragedies related to Zika virus infection. We are sad to report that we now have our first case of Zika-associated microcephaly and our hearts go out to the family,” stated Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Executive Director of HCPH. “While this remains a travel-associated case, we know that prevention is key to reducing the risk of Zika virus infection. Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that Zika is linked to birth defects, we continue to encourage individuals traveling to areas where the virus has been identified to take steps to prevent Zika infection, and to contact their healthcare provider immediately if they develop Zika symptoms even upon return to the United States.”
Zika virus is spread primarily through the bite of the Aedes species mosquito. According to the CDC, symptoms of Zika are usually mild and include fever, rash, conjunctivitis (red eyes), and joint-pain, lasting several days to a week. Zika can also be transmitted sexually. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon and death is rare. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika virus infection.
The CDC recommends that all people who are traveling to areas where Zika virus is found, should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites to reduce their risk of infection with Zika virus as well as other mosquito-borne viruses such as dengue and chikungunya. CDC recommends that pregnant women should avoid traveling to Zika affected areas.
Before traveling abroad, HCPH recommends individuals contact their healthcare provider who may recommend vaccines or important preventive medication for travel-related diseases.