Potential for Zika Virus in Houston, Texas

Cities across the country, including Houston are bracing for an outbreak of Zika. One of the major problems found in many areas including Houston is the illegal dumping of tires and the potential for them to become one of the largest breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Of particular concern are the yellow fever (Aedes aegypti) mosquito and its ability to spread disease which can result in babies born with birth defects for those infected. Even more alarming is what we still don’t know much about the disease, although researchers are learning more each day.

Residents in Houston are hoping to clean up abandoned tires along with other containers that have the potential to be breeding grounds of mosquitoes that may carry Zika virus. In fact residents have been complaining for months about the tires, specifically the water-filled tires that sit in areas allowing mosquitoes to breed. Officials recommend that residents continue to call local government agencies regarding abandoned and illegal dumping of tires because mosquitoes that have the potential to transmit Zika are already breeding. Officials further warn that it is not just pregnant women who should be vigilant but that everyone has cause to be concerned.

If you visit Houston, you will see signs posted around the city promoting Zika awareness which focus on issues such as draining standing water sources, dressing in long sleeves and pants and using an insect repellent containing Deet. To date, the city has picked up more than 2,500 tons of heavy trash which includes some 1,400 tires. Officials state that the city is in need of federal money if they are to continue collecting the additional amount of trash that can still be found across the area.

Authorities continue to stress that so much is still unknown about the disease, but what they do know is that one in five people infected with Zika virus will become ill and develop symptoms. The most common symptoms of Zika include, fever, rash, muscle ache, headache, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The incubation period is still unknown but is expected to be a few days to a week. For most, the illness is mild with symptoms lasting between several days to a week. Research indicates that the virus remains in the blood of an infected person for an unspecified amount of time and can also be spread through sexual contact with an infected male partner.

The symptoms of Zika are similar in nature to other mosquito borne diseases including dengue and chikungunya. Both of these diseases can be spread though the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito, the same mosquito which is known to transmit Zika. If you are experiencing symptoms, tell your healthcare provider when and where you last traveled. Your Doctor may order blood or urine samples to look for Zika or other similar viruses including dengue and chikungunya. To date, there are no known medications or vaccines available to treat or prevent Zika infections but Texas Heritage Protection is watching this health emergency closely.