Doctors from Texas, New Mexico, and Chihuahua met in El Paso on Tuesday morning to discuss preventative measures for the Zika virus and other diseases that could affect the community.
This comes after the first Zika-related death was reported in the state of Texas.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, a baby in Harris County had Microcephaly linked to the Zika virus and died shortly after birth. The mother had reportedly been in Latin America while she was pregnant.
Lead Epidemiologist for the City of El Paso, Dr. Fernando Gonzalez says the population of mosquitos is going to be increasing dramatically because of monsoon season in the Borderland.
“We don’t have local transmission of Zika in our community, but we have West Nile Virus cases that are prevalent,” says Gonzalez.
Doctors say the virus can be transmitted sexually, by blood transfusions, organ transplants, and from mother to womb.
“Now we know and we are certain that this is a very aggressive virus in the maternal and child health population,” says Gonzalez.
He says pregnant women are at most risk because the virus can be transmitted to their unborn baby, resulting in Microcephaly, a disease where babies are born with abnormally small heads.
Pediatrician Dr. Andres Boadella says he tells his patients to not take mosquito bites lightly, especially when living in areas where mosquito breeding grounds are prevalent. “If the mosquito is not a carrier and bites an infected person, that mosquito automatically becomes a mode of transmission for that virus,” says Boadella.
Doctors urge people to wear insect repellent anytime they plan to be outside, not just to prevent Zika, but other viruses carried by mosquitos.
“The Zika virus is from the same family as West Nile, Dengue, Yellow Fever, so all of these are other viruses that can be transmitted,” says Boadella.
The Department of Public Health says there is currently no cure or treatment for Zika. If someone is infected with Zika, doctors recommend having regular check-ups to monitor the virus.
Dr. Boadella says symptoms for Zika are typically fevers, joint pains, rashes, and red eyes. Lab testing can detect if someone has been infected with the virus.