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First Suspected Local Zika Case Of 2017 Turns Up In South Texas

Wendy Rigby
Texas Public Radio
A man sprays for mosquitos in his Brownsville backyard after news of locally acquired Zika cases in Cameron County in 2016.

The first documented locally acquired case of Zika in the continental U.S this year has been detected in Hidalgo County, at the southern tip of Texas. There's no indication this is the start of a large-scale outbreak.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said a person who lives in Hidalgo County, which borders Mexico, tested positive for the mosquito-borne virus.

That individual had not traveled outside the area, so health officials believe the person got the virus from the bite of a locally infected mosquito.

State health department spokesman Chris Van Deusen said people who live in the Rio Grande Valley are more at risk for exposure to Zika than anyone else in Texas right now. 

"We have the travel back and forth to Mexico where they’ve continued to see cases in very large numbers, of course, and that’s really why we’ve been focusing on the Rio Grande Valley," Van Deusen said.

Since April, thousands of women in six Texas counties have been tested for Zika, along with people exhibiting symptoms like rash, fever, joint pain and red eyes.

That expanded testing uncovered this latest case. So far, this is not an outbreak, Van Deusen said. "Fortunately, it doesn’t appear that this has led to any other Zika cases."

Zika has been linked to severe birth defects in newborns of infected mothers. 

Wendy Rigby is a San Antonio native who has worked as a journalist for more than 25 years. She spent two decades at KENS-TV covering health and medical news. Now, she brings her considerable background, experience and passion to Texas Public Radio.
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