A pregnant woman from El Paso in her mid-30s has tested positive for the Zika virus after traveling to South America, according to the City of El Paso Department of Public Health.
“This report comes during a time when our weather seems to be cooling down,” said Fernando Gonzalez, Lead Epidemiologist. “We need to consider that mosquitoes that could transmit this disease are still active, and that all the cases we’ve seen locally so far have come from travel to other countries,” he said.
The woman’s positive test result is the third travel-related Zika case in El Paso so far this year.
The DPH is encouraging anyone who may be traveling to Zika-affected regions including certain areas of Florida, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Pacific Islands, Asia, and U.S. territories to take strict precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes. Because Zika can also be transmitted sexually, anyone who travels to a Zika-affected area should either abstain from sexual activity, or use condoms correctly and consistently for the following amount of time.
- Men with possible Zika virus exposure, regardless of symptom status, should wait at least 6 months from symptom onset (if symptomatic) or last possible exposure (if asymptomatic) before attempting conception with their partner. They should also wait at least 6 months before having condomless sex to minimize their risk for sexual transmission of Zika virus to partners.
- Women with possible Zika virus exposure are recommended to wait to conceive until at least 8 weeks after symptom onset (if symptomatic) or last possible Zika virus exposure (if asymptomatic).
- To protect the unborn fetus from possible birth defects, such as microcephaly, persons who have traveled to or lived in an area with active Zika virus transmission and whose partner is pregnant should consistently and correctly use condoms during sex or abstain from sex for the duration of the pregnancy.
- Additionally, non-pregnant women of childbearing age who travel, or who have a male partner who travels, to a Zika-affected region, should talk with their healthcare providers about their pregnancy plans and take steps to avoid any unintended pregnancy, including correct and consistent condom use.
Zika virus is a generally mild illness that is spread primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito. Common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes), lasting from several days to one week. An infected patient’s blood can remain infectious to mosquitoes for up to two weeks.