<![CDATA[NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth - Dallas-Fort Worth News - Zika Virus Outbreak]]>Copyright 2019http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/localen-usFri, 23 Aug 2019 10:46:15 -0500Fri, 23 Aug 2019 10:46:15 -0500NBC Local Integrated Media<![CDATA[3rd Zika Infection by Texas Mosquito Reported This Year]]>Fri, 08 Dec 2017 16:08:53 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZIKA-MOSQUITOS.jpg

Health officials say a person in Texas appears to have been infected with Zika after being bitten by a local mosquito, the third such instance this year.

Officials said Thursday that a McAllen resident appears to have been infected by a mosquito in Hidalgo County, located on the border with Mexico. Previously this year, another local transmission was reported in Hidalgo County and one in neighboring Cameron County.

The Texas Department of State Health Services says Rio Grande Valley residents should take precautions because it's often warm enough there for mosquito activity through much of the winter.

Last year in Texas, there were six local transmissions by mosquitoes. The majority of Texas' cases involve people infected abroad.

Zika can cause severe defects in babies born to women infected during pregnancy.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

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<![CDATA[Texas Launches New Fight Against Zika Virus]]>Wed, 09 Aug 2017 17:22:26 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika_Threat_4p_80917.jpg

The state of Texas is launching a new fight against Zika virus. Twenty-one cases have been reported so far in 2017.]]>
<![CDATA[Dallas County Health Officials Monitor Possible Zika Cases]]>Wed, 02 Aug 2017 22:42:47 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Mosquito-AP_750626106311.jpg

In its latest update, Dallas County Health and Human Services says it is monitoring 13 cases involving either pregnant mothers or infants for possible Zika infection.

"I'm not surprised at all," said Dr. Sheila Chhutani, of Gyn/Ob Associates and Texas Health Dallas. "I think it's just a matter of time before we see Zika possibly being transmitted here."

The U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry is a long-term tracking effort to better understand the impacts of the virus. In Texas, 221 pregnant women were being tracked for possible Zika exposure, all travel related. Fifteen of those women gave birth to infants with birth defects consistent with the Zika virus.

Last week Texas had its first case of local Zika transmission in the Rio Grande Valley. So far, the possible cases locally have been travel related.

"I think that the city of Dallas is doing its job in terms of trying to track mosquitoes," Chhutani said.

But it's not just a government issue.

"People don't see it as affecting them until it does," she said.

"It just rained today. Let's make sure we don't have rain water sitting outside, making a home for mosquitoes to develop," Chhutani pointed out Wednesday evening. "It's not something we do once and we stop. It's an ongoing process. It's an ongoing threat, and it's going to continue."



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[First 2017 Texas Case of Local Zika Transmission Reported]]>Wed, 26 Jul 2017 17:32:48 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/AHORA-FUMIGACION-MOSQUITO-ZIKA.jpg

Texas health officials have reported what they believe to be the state's first case this year of local Zika virus transmission.

A statement Wednesday by the Texas Department of State Health Services says the person hasn't traveled outside his home area recently, so the virus was probably transmitted by a mosquito in the last few months. The infected person is a resident of Hidalgo County in the lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas.

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman says that if the agency confirms the case resulted from a local transmission, it would be the first this year in the U.S.

Six cases of local Zika transmission were reported last year in Texas. Zika can cause severe birth defects in babies of some women infected during pregnancy.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

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<![CDATA[What to Know About the Zika Virus: Q&A]]>Tue, 02 Feb 2016 12:32:10 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Brasil-Zika-Virus-Mosquitoes-AP_522930132471.jpg

A rare tropical disease is spreading in parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. The mosquito-borne Zika virus usually causes a mild illness but is now suspected in an unusual birth defect and possibly other health issues. The World Health Organization declared an international emergency on Feb. 1 over the explosive spread of Zika, saying it is an "extraordinary event." WHO estimates there could be up to 4 million cases of Zika in the Americas in the next year, but no recommendations were made to restrict travel or trade. Some things to know:

What is Zika?
The Zika virus was first discovered in a monkey in Uganda in 1947; its name comes from the Zika forest where it was first discovered. It is native mainly to tropical Africa, with outbreaks in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. It showed up in Brazil last year and has since been seen in many Latin American countries and Caribbean islands.

How is it spread?
It is transmitted through bites from the same kind of mosquitoes that can spread other tropical diseases, like dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever. It is not known to spread from person to person. Investigators, though, are exploring the possibility that the virus can be passed on through sex — it was found in one man's semen in Tahiti and there's been another report of possible spread of the virus through sex.

The World Health Organization says Zika is rapidly spreading in the Americas because it is new to the region, people aren't immune to it, and the Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries it is just about everywhere — including along the southern United States. Canada and Chile are the only places without this mosquito.

Are there symptoms?
Experts think most people infected with Zika virus don't get sick. And those that do usually develop mild symptoms — fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes — which usually last no more than a week. There is no specific medicine and there hasn't been a vaccine developed for it, which is the case for some other tropical illnesses that cause periodic outbreaks.

Why is it a concern now?
In Brazil, there's been mounting evidence linking Zika infection in pregnant women to a rare birth defect called microcephaly, in which a newborn's head is smaller than normal and the brain may not have developed properly. Brazilian health officials last October noticed a spike in cases of microcephaly in tandem with the Zika outbreak. The connection to Zika is still being investigated, and officials note there are many causes of the condition. Nearly 4,000 cases have been tallied.

Meanwhile, doctors have noted increased reports of a nerve condition called Guillain-Barre that can cause paralysis. But the link to the Zika virus is not clear; other infections can spark the problem, including dengue fever.

Can the spread be stopped?
Individuals can protect themselves from mosquito bites by using insect repellents, and wearing long sleeves and long pants — especially during daylight, when the mosquitoes tend to be most active, health officials say. Eliminating breeding spots and controlling mosquito populations can help prevent the spread of the virus.

Have there been cases in the U.S.?
Yes, but in travelers. There've been more than 30 cases diagnosed in the U.S. since 2007, all travelers who are believed to have caught it overseas. (Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have each had a recent case that didn't involve a traveler.)

The kind of mosquito that spreads Zika is found along the southern United States, so experts think it's likely the pests may end up spreading the virus there. But officials also have said Zika infections probably won't be a big problem in the U.S. for a number of reasons, including the more common use of air conditioning and door and window screens. Recent U.S. outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya — carried by the same mosquito — suggest any Zika outbreaks may be relatively small, said Dr. Lyle Petersen of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Are there any travel advisories?
U.S. health officials recommend that pregnant women should consider postponing trips to 22 destinations. Latin America: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela. In the Caribbean: Barbados, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, St. Martin and Puerto Rico. Also, Cape Verde, off the coast of western Africa; and Samoa in the South Pacific.

In Brazil, most of the mothers who had babies with microcephaly were apparently infected during the first trimester, but there is some evidence the birth defect can occur later in the pregnancy, CDC officials say. The travel alert applies to women in any stage of pregnancy.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: File--AP]]>
<![CDATA[Health Officials Predict Zika Outbreak Along Texas Border]]>Mon, 24 Apr 2017 18:15:03 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika+border+outbreak.jpg

Mosquito season is off to a busy start, and health officials predict that a Zika outbreak in the Rio Grande Valley is only a matter of time.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Research Continues in Effort to Stop Zika Virus]]>Mon, 17 Apr 2017 20:28:25 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zikamosquito_1200x675.jpg

Researchers are learning more about how Zika virus is transmitted and they're finding therapies to stop the mosquito-borne virus before it does its damage.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Stopping Zika in its Tracks: Medicine's Next Big Thing]]>Mon, 17 Apr 2017 20:28:51 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-5434985760zika.jpg

Over 5,000 cases of Zika virus have been reported in the United States since 2015, and scientists say there may be a resurgence of cases of this mosquito-borne disease over the next few months. Researchers have learned more about how Zika is transmitted and are finding therapies to stop the virus before it does its damage.

“We still don’t know enough about what are all the short-term and long-term effects on the baby,” said Dr. Indira Mysorekar, an associate professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology; Pathology & Immunology and the associate director of the Center for Reproductive Health Sciences at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Mysorekar is an expert in fetal infections. She and her colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis are looking at ways to stop the spread of Zika from mother to child.

Researchers infected pregnant mice with Zika. During pregnancy the virus can be seen passing through the placenta. Next, researchers injected other mice with antibodies that blocked the virus.

“It was not allowed to cross over into the placenta into the area where the blood flow, nutrient and oxygen exchange is happening, so the babies were fine,” said Mysorekar.

Professor Mysorekar said what works in mice should also work in people.

“This is going into human trials,” detailed Mysorekar. “First round of human trials are starting now with this antibody.”

At the same time, Kelle Moley, M.D., a professor and Vice Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University in St. Louis, is researching the impact of Zika on men. Dr. Moley examined the reproductive systems of Zika-infected mice.

“By day 21, we saw no germ cells so basically this would imply that it would lead to infertility, if it has the same effect,” Dr. Moley said.

Dr. Moley said it’s a reminder to both men and women in infected areas to take precautions.

There have been very few studies linking Zika virus to infertility in men. Dr. Moley said there is a CDC study underway in men in Puerto Rico examining a link between Zika, sperm motility, and a decrease in testosterone levels. 

According to the National Institute of Health, the first human clinical trial of a potential Zika vaccine is underway at Walter Reed Army Institute of research in Silver Spring, Maryland.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Zika Testing Advised for Pregnant Women in 6 TX Counties]]>Fri, 07 Apr 2017 16:17:51 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Mosquito-GettyImages-513621730.jpg

Texas health officials are recommending expanded Zika virus testing for pregnant women in six South Texas counties.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said Friday it's recommending testing for women in their first and second trimesters in Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, Webb, Willacy and Zapata counties.

Late last year there were six cases of local mosquitoes transmitting the virus to people in Brownsville, located in Cameron County.

Zika is transmitted to people primarily from the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms are usually minor but Zika can cause severe birth defects in babies of some women infected during pregnancy.

Health officials are also recommending testing for any resident in those six counties with a rash in addition to at least one other common symptom: fever, joint pain or eye redness.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: LatinContent/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[7 Babies in TX with Possible Zika-Related Birth Defects]]>Wed, 05 Apr 2017 13:32:13 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/new+zika+report.jpg

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2016, about 10 percent of U.S. pregnant women with confirmed Zika virus infection had a fetus or baby with Zika-related birth defects.

"They're a bit more nervous, I think, this season," said Dr. Aungel Evans, with Associated Women's Healthcare in Plano and Medical City Plano, who says pregnant women remain concerned about Zika.

"They're worried, they're nervous," Evans said. "I think most of us are good about telling our patients about the travel advisories, so a lot of women are preventing the family vacations and things like that to those areas."

The Texas Department of State Health Services reports seven babies born in Texas have birth defects that could be consistent with Zika, and three of them are confirmed cases of the virus.

Doctors at Associated Women's Healthcare have two patients who tested positive for Zika.

"It's too soon to see what's happening with the fetuses, but hopefully, you know, they haven't been affected, but it's definitely a possibility," Evans said.

As of the end of March, Texas reports 181 pregnant women have shown signs of possible Zika infection, and all of them contracted their cases from travel outside the United States.

In Texas, 67 of the babies have been born, and just like the national numbers, about one in 10 show signs of possible Zika infection.

Nationally, the CDC reports that of the 250 pregnant women who had confirmed Zika infection last year, 24 had a fetus or baby with Zika-related birth defects.

Nearly 1,000 pregnant women from 44 states, including those in Texas, showed evidence of Zika infection.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Dallas County Health Readies for Mosquito Season]]>Fri, 31 Mar 2017 14:48:27 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Mosquito_Presser_1200x675_911313475921.jpg

Dallas County Health and Human Services leaders say they're ready for mosquito season.

Mosquito-borne viruses, such as West Nile and Zika, remain the largest concern.

In 2016 in Dallas County, 61 people were infected with West Nile, including three who died after contracting the virus.

Experts said 80 percent of those infected with mosquito-borne illnesses were not wearing repellant.

No Zika cases in North Texas originated from mosquitoes, but it's on radar for health department's across the Metroplex.

DCHHS Director Dr. Zachary Thompson continues to mention citizens should observe the "Four D's," detailed below.


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<![CDATA[Child Born in Austin Area with Microcephaly Has Zika]]>Fri, 06 Jan 2017 18:07:44 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZikaBaby-AP_272141986039.jpg

Austin health officials say a child born in Travis County with microcephaly has the Zika virus.

Austin Public Health Chief of Staff Bob Corona said the child was born last September in an Austin hospital, and tests confirmed the Zika virus this week.

Corona said the mother was infected in Central America, but it's unclear if the mother was an Austin-area resident visiting Central America or a Central American visiting Austin.

State health officials say 294 people reported Zika-related illnesses as of Dec. 30, but only two of which were acquired in Texas. Twenty cases involved pregnant women, with two infants infected before birth. The first child born in Texas with Zika-related microcephaly, an abnormally small head, was last year in Harris County. The Zika virus was confirmed July 13.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Family of 1st Puerto Rico Baby With Zika Defect Struggles]]>Mon, 19 Dec 2016 08:58:11 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/AP_16353514291200-zikathmb.jpg

Michelle Flandez had just given birth to her first son, but doctors in this U.S. territory whisked him away before she could see him. 

Perplexed, she demanded him back and then slowly unwrapped the blanket that covered him. 

"My husband and I looked at each other," she recalled. "No one had warned us. No one had given us the opportunity to decide what to do." 

It was mid-October, and in her arms lay what health officials announced as the first known baby born in Puerto Rico with a rare birth defect that has been linked to the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Those with microcephaly have abnormally small heads and often suffer impeded brain growth and other problems. 

The island, already struggling with a shortage of doctors and funds amid a worsening economic crisis, has more than 35,700 Zika cases, including nearly 3,000 involving pregnant women. Some 300 people overall have been hospitalized and five have died, including at least two who developed complications from a paralysis condition linked to Zika known as Guillain-Barre. 

Since the birth of Flandez's son, named Inti after an Inca sun god, four other babies have been born in Puerto Rico with birth defects linked to Zika, including microcephaly. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has projected a surge in cases next year. A study by the CDC estimates that up to 10,300 pregnant women in Puerto Rico could be infected with Zika and that between 100 and 270 babies could be born with microcephaly. The U.S. mainland, meanwhile, has reported more than 30 cases of birth defects linked to Zika. 

While Flandez had symptoms of Zika early in her pregnancy, she said she was told that tests showed a false positive. Sonograms in August and September showed no problems. 

Flandez ran a finger through the silky dark hair on Inti's tiny head on Friday as she described the challenges of raising her 3-month-old son on an island in economic crisis. She called several pediatric neurologists after he was born and found just one who accepted Medicaid. The earliest appointment she could get was in October 2017. 

Discouraged, she turned to relatives, one of whom detailed the family's plight on Facebook: "The family has remained quiet for too long. If this message reaches a pediatric neurologist who can help Inti, we will be more than grateful." 

The post was shared 11,000 times, and shortly afterward, an official at Puerto Rico's largest public hospital called and arranged an appointment for Inti. Since then, he has received therapy and now has several appointments scheduled through February with other doctors. 

But hardships persist. Flandez does not have a car, and she sometimes has to walk an hour with Inti to reach the closest bus stop when neighbors or friends cannot drive her to the doctor. Money also is tight for Flandez and her husband, who live in a two-bedroom apartment with no couch. 

"I have to pay rent, I have to eat ... I have to pay for transportation," she said as she cradled a sleepy Inti after breastfeeding him. 

Experts fear babies like Inti could develop other disabilities as they grow, burdening a health care system already breaking under an exodus of doctors fleeing for the U.S. mainland. The cost of treating a baby with Zika is estimated at $3.8 million, said Dr. Cynthia Moore, director of the CDC's division of congenital and developmental disorders. She said a Zika infection can bring many consequences, including poor eyesight or motor skills. 

"The more we learn about it, the more we find new problems," she said. "It's rapidly evolving." 

In Puerto Rico, health officials are pushing to secure more federal funds to fight the Zika epidemic, even as the number of weekly new cases has been dropping. Some of that money might be used as a special bonus for doctors who normally don't accept Medicaid patients, said Dr. Miguel Valencia Prado, director of the Health Department's Division of Children with Special Medical Needs. 

In addition, Valencia said he has established videoconferencing with at least two specialists in the U.S. who serve as consultants, and he is considering requesting that doctors based in the U.S. temporarily work in Puerto Rico on a rotational basis. 

Meanwhile, Flandez said she is taking it day-by-day with Inti, whom his older sister has nicknamed "Starman" because, as she explained to her mother, he is different from the rest and thus comes from the stars. 

Inti likes to have his feet tickled by the family's cat — "She's our emergency therapist," the mother says — and he seems to be soothed by the music of Iron Maiden songs when he cries, Flandez said with a laugh. 

"He's a normal child. I don't see him as someone for whom you should have pity," she said. "You never know how long he's going to live or how long I'm going to live. The most important thing is to do what's best right now."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[CDC Issues Zika Warning for Pregnant Women in TX City]]>Wed, 14 Dec 2016 20:51:48 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZIKA17.jpg

Pregnant women should consider postponing travel to Brownsville, Texas, because of concerns about mosquitoes there spreading the Zika virus, federal health officials said Wednesday.

The warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises doctors to tell pregnant women and their sex partners to take precautions and to consider putting off travel to the city while the advisory is in place.

It comes after five cases of Zika virus infection spread locally were recently diagnosed in people living near each other in the city located on the state's border with Mexico.

"We're recommending pregnant women not travel to Brownsville, and if they do travel to that area, to ensure that they avoid mosquito bites and they avoid the risk of sexual transmission," the CDC's Dr. Denise Jamieson said. "And that when they return from the area, that they undergo testing for Zika virus infection."

Florida is the only other state in the U.S. that has had homegrown Zika cases.

The CDC has issued a similar warning there in Miami-Dade County.

The CDC notes that temperatures in the Brownsville area are still conducive to mosquito breeding, so the risk of more cases can't be ruled out.

Zika is primarily transmitted to humans by mosquitoes that have previously bitten an infected person, though sexual transmission can also occur.

Most infected people don't have symptoms, but for those who do, it's usually a mild illness with fever, rash and joint pain.

But the disease is especially dangerous to pregnant women because it can cause severe birth defects, including babies born with unusually small heads.

None of the people with homegrown Zika cases in Texas is pregnant, officials said.

Texas Department of State Health Services officials on Wednesday recommended that all pregnant Brownsville residents and those who have traveled there on or after Oct. 29 be tested for Zika.

"The recommendation is now to test pregnant women more broadly in that area," department spokesman Chris Van Deusen said.

The CDC says that people living in the Brownsville area should be counseled on the possible risk of Zika before getting pregnant.

The locally transmitted Florida cases were detected over the summer. Until then, all U.S. cases had been connected to people traveling to countries with outbreaks, mostly in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Health officials note that because areas of active Zika transmission have been reported in Mexico near the U.S. border, they've been recommending since last year that pregnant women shouldn't travel to any low-elevation area in Mexico, where the virus-spreading mosquitoes thrive.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

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<![CDATA[Texas Awarded $5M for Zika Preparedness Campaign]]>Tue, 13 Dec 2016 00:27:43 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/mosquitoeszika.jpg

The State of Texas has been given a $5 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to combat the Zika virus.

The grant money is earmarked for the Public Health Preparedness and Response (PHPR) campaign and was awarded by Congress to increase public health preparedness and response funding to protect Americans from Zika virus infection.

The grant comes just days after the state confirmed four additional locally transmitted cases of Zika virus. State officials said the people were likely infected along the border, near Brownsville.

"Now that Texas has confirmed cases of local transmission of the Zika virus, this money will be crucial in our efforts to contain and combat further transmission of the virus," said Gov. Greg Abbott. "Texas has been at the forefront of developing and implementing the strongest possible Zika response plan and we will continue to work with our local and federal partners to ensure our communities have the tools they need to combat the Zika virus."

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has dedicated $18 million to combating the Zika virus and implementing the state's Preparedness and Response plan. 

For more information, visit http://texaszika.org/



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[4 More Likely Homegrown Zika Cases Found in Texas]]>Fri, 09 Dec 2016 20:20:21 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/AGENTE-ZIKA.jpg

State officials have announced four more cases of Zika that are believed to have been transmitted in Texas, almost two weeks after announcing the first such case.

That first case, announced Nov. 28, was a woman who lives in Brownsville, a town located on the Mexico border. The Texas Department of State Health Services said Friday that the new cases were identified in tests conducted after her infection was uncovered.

Health officials are still investigating, but say the additional infections were likely also acquired in Brownsville, near her home. Health officials say the additional people were likely infected before mosquito control efforts intensified in the area.

Last week, public health officials went door to door in Brownsville to educate people about the virus and provide testing.

None of those infected are pregnant. Infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects.

Colder weather is likely to thank for a decrease in mosquite activity, according to a health official. However, mosquito populations can rebound during short periods of warm weather.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

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<![CDATA[Mosquito Expert Predicts More Zika Cases]]>Tue, 29 Nov 2016 19:42:25 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Mosquito-GettyImages-513621730.jpg

The man who first discovered West Nile virus in Texas has been screening mosquitoes for the Zika virus all season long.

James Kennedy, a mosquito expert and biology professor at the University of North Texas, says he's not surprised by news of the first locally transmitted case of Zika in Texas and he predicts more cases of mosquitoes infecting people with Zika in Texas next summer.

In his latest collection of mosquitoes last week, he says he didn't the species that carry the Zika virus, which he says means the population isn't very high, but he does predict things to pick back up in the spring.

Experts say don't let your guard down.

If you're traveling somewhere with mild temperatures, experts say use insect repellent, wear clothes that cover your skin.

Continue to protect yourself here at home by draining standing water around your home.



Photo Credit: LatinContent/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Border Counties Prepare For Zika-Related Birth Defects]]>Wed, 30 Nov 2016 05:26:59 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-543392276-Mosquito.jpg

Even before the state's first locally transmitted case of the Zika virus in Cameron County was confirmed Monday, border counties have been preparing for the worst-case scenario: an increase in babies born with birth defects related to the mosquito-borne illness.

The Texas Department of State Health Services issued in October a health alert encouraging health care providers in Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, Webb, Willacy and Zapata counties to consider Zika virus infection in their patients and order testing as medically indicated.

In Hidalgo County, home to the largest number of "colonias," residential areas along the Texas-Mexico border that may lack some of the most basic living necessities, public health officials said they've been in close contact with the DSHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure local providers have the latest information on the spread of the virus.

Forty-five percent of Hidalgo County residents have little or no insurance, according to Eddie Olivarez, chief administrative officer of Health and Human Services in Hidalgo County. 

"The worst-case scenario is you're going to have a family that totally distraught about their child being born with a major neurological birth defect. When is anybody really prepared for that? You're not," said Olivarez.

He said they've strengthened communication with federally qualified clinics, community agencies and hospital networks.

"We've actually sent old-school mail, where we've actually mailed the letters to all the obstetricians and family doctors that work with them [pregnant females], because we have more than 800 physicians in our county, so our focus has been with those who work with that population," said Olivarez.

He hopes ongoing education about Zika will prevent a potential health crisis, which is why community advocate and colonia resident Lourdes Salinas has spent months spreading awareness about the dangers of the virus in her neighborhood.

"We passed the fliers. We tell them, 'You know what? Protect yourself, get inside the house early, put repellent. Do whatever you need to do because you're not going to have the assistance that you need if a baby comes with birth defects," said Salinas.

South Texas is considered the front line of the virus because local transmission has been reported in neighboring cities across the border in Mexico.

The Rio Grande Valley is dealing with a surge of illegal border crossings.
Plus, many residents go back and forth from Texas to Mexico weekly, even daily.

DSHS said the Rio Grande Valley is considered to be at higher risk for Zika transmission because of previous outbreaks of dengue, a similar virus spread by the same type of mosquito.

A spokesperson for South Texas Health System, the largest health system in Hidalgo County, said Zika education is now a part of childbirth classes.

"Every pregnant woman has an Infectious Disease Screen performed and questions are asked about travel and any signs or symptoms of infection (acute onset of fever, maculopapular rash, arthralgia or conjunctivitis)," said spokesperson Cari Lambrecht in an email to NBC 5. 

"Our neonatology team specializes in care of newborn infants, especially those with acute needs, such as premature or underweight infants, those with congenital birth defects and infants with serious illnesses. Any baby born with microcephaly due to Zika virus, would be provided standard NICU care and would have imaging series performed and would involve a consult with a Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist," said Lambrecht.

As of Nov. 29, 2016, two cases of travel-related Zika have been reported in Hidalgo County.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Border Counties Prepare For Local Zika Transmission]]>Tue, 29 Nov 2016 04:56:48 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika25.jpg

On Monday, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported the state's first case of locally transmitted Zika virus.

The 43-year-old woman, who lives in Brownsville, tested positive for Zika.

Officials say she reported no recent travel to any areas where local Zika transmission is prevalent.

According to the state, further investigation will be necessary to attempt to pinpoint how and where the infection occurred.

Cameron County Health Administrator Esmeralda Guajardo spoke with NBC 5 about the possibility of local transmission two weeks ago.

"I’m surprised that we don’t have a local acquired case at this point," she told NBC 5's Bianca Castro in mid-November.

Travel back and forth to Mexico is a way of life for Rio Grande Valley residents, she says and until now late November, all Zika cases in Cameron County have originated from Mexico.

"When 80 percent of the people who have Zika do not have symptoms, we have to think about the possibility that a lot of us here are walking around with it," she said.

She also talked about concerns on handling a possible increase in babies born with microcephaly, the birth defect linked to Zika.

"We don’t have the resources that other areas do where they have universities, where they have big hospitals. We have minimal number of hospitals, minimal number of providers. We are a medically-underserved area and so to give a patient the care that they need, that is my fear," she said.

Her department has been working with local municipalities to conduct mosquito spraying and vector control.

She has also coordinated with hospitals and clinics to assure medical providers have the latest information on Zika transmissions.

According to DSHS, Cameron County and the City of Brownsville have conducted an environmental assessment at the patient’s home and have been trapping and testing mosquitoes to learn more about activity in the area.

Health workers from Cameron County and DSHS will be going door to door in the area around where the case lived to educate the public about Zika. They will help people reduce potential mosquito breeding habitat on their property and collect voluntary urine samples to determine whether other infections are present.

Health officials warn that pregnant women should not travel to Mexico and should avoid sexual contact or use condoms with partners who have traveled there.

Officials believe the patient in Brownsville is the only locally transmitted case in Texas so far.

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<![CDATA[Tarrant Co. Refuses to Break Down Zika Cases By ZIP Code]]>Fri, 04 Nov 2016 04:14:30 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Mosquito-AP_750626106311.jpg

Tarrant County reported its 25th case of Zika virus on Thursday. All of those people were infected somewhere else and brought the illness back to North Texas. This latest patient traveled to Puerto Rico, officials say.

But should you be allowed to know what ZIP code these patients call home? NBC 5 has been pressing for that information since this summer and the requests are now leading to a lawsuit against the state attorney general.

NBC 5 Investigates requested Zika cases broken down by ZIP code, the way West Nile cases are, to look for any clusters of cases in Tarrant and Dallas same counties that the public should know about.

Both county health departments initially refused to release the information, saying it would violate patient privacy.

Each department then took it to the state attorney general to make a decision, who ruled against them, saying the information NBC 5 requested was only statistical and would not identify anyone.

Within days, the Dallas County Health Department handed over its data broken down by ZIP codes.

But Tarrant County is still refusing and now, in a rare move, is suing the attorney general's office to keep from releasing the information.

Tarrant County Health says because Zika requires localized spraying around an infected person's home, pairing that with public ZIP code data could identify patients.

An expert in infectious diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center tells NBC 5 Zika virus is entirely different from West Nile and that since all cases of Zika in our area have so far been travel related, there’s not as much urgency to track them by exact location.

"It is possible that a mosquito could bite a person who just came back from El Salvador or Mexico or somewhere and transmit to somebody, that's possible. It's just it's so unlikely that it's just not happening," said Dr. Robert Haley, Chief of Epidemiology at UT Southwestern.

Haley also says that finding clusters of cases in one ZIP code wouldn't be surprising, because they’ve all been contracted overseas.

"People who take luxurious vacations, they tend to live in the same areas, and people who go down to Mexico or El Salvador to visit family, they tend to live in similar areas and so you would expect clustering, neighborhood clustering,” Haley said.

This case is now back in the hands of the state attorney general to determine whether Tarrant County needs to release its Zika data by ZIP code. NBC 5 will continue to track this story.

See the chart below where the cases of Zika have been reported in Dallas County:



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Zika 'Syndrome': Health Problems Mount as Babies Turn 1 ]]>Tue, 11 Oct 2016 10:27:15 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-507388502zika.jpg

Two weeks shy of his first birthday, doctors began feeding Jose Wesley Campos through a nose tube because swallowing problems had left him dangerously underweight.

Learning how to feed is the baby's latest struggle as medical problems mount for him and many other infants born with small heads to mothers infected with the Zika virus in Brazil.

"It hurts me to see him like this. I didn't want this for him," said Jose's mother, Solange Ferreira, breaking into tears as she cradled her son.

A year after a spike in the number of newborns with the defect known as microcephaly, doctors and researchers have seen many of the babies develop swallowing difficulties, epileptic seizures and vision and hearing problems.

While more study is needed, Zika-caused microcephaly appears to be causing more severe problems in these infants than in patients born with small heads because of the other infections known to cause microcephaly, such as German measles and herpes. The problems are so particular that doctors are now calling the condition congenital Zika syndrome.

"We are seeing a lot of seizures. And now they are having many problems eating, so a lot of these children start using feeding tubes," said Dr. Vanessa Van der Linden, a pediatric neurologist in Recife who was one of the first doctors to suspect that Zika caused microcephaly.

Zika, mainly transmitted by mosquito, was not known to cause birth defects until a large outbreak swept through northeastern states in Latin America's largest nation, setting off alarm worldwide. Numerous studies confirmed the link.

Seven percent of the babies with microcephaly that Van der Linden and her team have treated were also born with arm and leg deformities that had not previously been linked to other causes of microcephaly, she said.

To complicate matters, there are babies whose heads were normal at birth but stopped growing proportionally months later. Other infants infected with the virus in the womb did not have microcephaly but developed different problems, such as a patient of Van der Linden's who started having difficulties moving his left hand.

"We may not even know about the ones with slight problems out there," Van der Linden said. "We are writing the history of this disease."

On a recent day, Jose laid on a blue mat wearing just brown moccasins and a diaper, his bony chest pressed by a respiratory therapist helping him clear congested airways.

Jose, who has been visited by The Associated Press three times in the last year, is like a newborn. He is slow to follow objects with his crossed eyes. His head is unsteady when he tries to hold it up, and he weighs less than 13 pounds, far below the 22 pounds that is average for a baby his age.

Breathing problems make his cries sound like gargling, and his legs stiffen when he is picked up. To see, he must wear tiny blue-rimmed glasses, which makes him fussy.

Arthur Conceicao, who recently turned 1, has seizures every day despite taking medication for epilepsy. He also started taking high-calorie formula through a tube after he appeared to choke during meals.

"It's every mom's dream to see their child open his mouth and eat well," said his mother, Rozilene Ferreira, adding that each day seems to bring new problems.

Studies are underway to determine if the timing of the infection during pregnancy affects the severity of the abnormalities, said Ricardo Ximenes, a researcher at the Fiocruz Institute in Recife.

Also, three groups of babies whose mothers were infected with Zika are being followed for a study funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The groups include infants born with microcephaly, some born with normal-sized heads found to have brain damage or other physical problems and babies who have not had any symptoms or developmental delays.

At birth, Bernardo Oliveira's head measured more than 13 inches, well within the average range. His mother, Barbara Ferreira, thought her child was spared from the virus that had infected her during pregnancy and stricken many newborns in maternity wards in her hometown of Caruaru, a small city 80 miles west of Recife.

But Bernardo cried nonstop. The pediatrician told Ferreira that her baby was likely colicky and would get better by his third month. Instead, the crying got worse, so Ferreira took him to a government-funded event where neurologists were seeing patients with suspected brain damage.

"At the end of the second month, beginning of the third, his head stopped growing," Ferreira said. "Bernardo was afflicted by the Zika virus after all. I was in despair."

In Brazil, the government has reported 2,001 cases of microcephaly or other brain malformations in the last year. So far, only 343 have been confirmed by tests to have been caused by Zika, but the Health Ministry argues that the rest are most likely caused by the virus.

Health Minister Ricardo Barros said there was a drop of 85 percent in microcephaly cases in August and September compared to those months last year, when the first births started worrying pediatricians. He credited growing awareness of the virus and government attempts to combat mosquitoes through spraying campaigns.

Despite all the problems, some infants with the syndrome are showing signs of progress.

On a recent evening, 11-month-old Joao Miguel Silva Nunes pulled himself up in his playpen and played peek-a-boo with his mother, Rosileide da Silva.

"He is my source of pride," Silva said. "He makes me feel that things are working out."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[New Alert Urges More Zika Testing Along Texas-Mexico Border]]>Mon, 03 Oct 2016 18:43:46 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/texas-border-sign1.jpg

The Texas Department of State Health Services issued an alert to doctors Monday, urging more Zika virus testing along the Texas-Mexico border and Gulf Coast.

Less than a month ago an NBC 5 Investigation revealed only handfuls of people had been tested in some south Texas counties with the highest risk.

The alert asks doctors to increase testing for Zika in six border counties, including Hidaglo County, along with Webb, Cameron, Starr, Willacy and Zapata counties. Specifically, the alert recommends doctors test all pregnant women in those counties if they have two or more Zika signs or symptoms, even if they have no history of traveling to other countries where Zika is actively transmitted.

Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine in Houston, told NBC 5 Investigates Monday the alert is a good start, but more south Texas counties may need to be added.

"I might consider expanding the area where we are going to do expanded Zika testing to Harris County as well as possibly Bexar County as well," said Hotez.

All of those counties in south Texas have historically seen more mosquitoes that can carry the Zika virus, one reason health officials have long feared the Rio Grande Valley could be one of the first places hit by Zika in Texas.

In September, NBC 5 Investigates traveled to the border region and found few people had been tested for Zika.

The investigation found just 25 people had been tested in Hidalgo County, which is home to more than 800,000 people. In Webb County just four people had been tested in mid-September.

NBC 5 Investigates shared those numbers with Dr. Hotez last month, who was concerned not enough was being done

"It means there's no active surveillance. We are not doing any active detection of Zika transmission," said Hotez.

He fears a lack of testing in some south Texas counties could cause dangerous delays in detecting the first cases of local transmission of Zika.

"A key point here is that we may already have transmission underway in Texas, Louisiana and the Gulf Coast," Hotez told NBC 5 Investigates last month.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[CDC Warns Against Traveling to Asia as Zika Spreads There]]>Mon, 03 Oct 2016 05:49:54 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/184*120/Mosquito+Illnesses+Fort+Worth.jpg

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning pregnant women to stay away from 11 Southeast Asian countries where Zika is spreading, NBC News reported.

Thailand has been included on the list, where officials on Friday reported the first confirmed cases of birth defects linked to the virus. The other countries are Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste (East Timor), and Vietnam.

Pregnant women should not travel to any area with a Zika travel notice and should consider postponing non-essential travel to the 11 countries in Southeast Asia listed in the newly issued considerations," the CDC advised on Thursday.



Photo Credit: Alice Barr]]>
<![CDATA[Zika Screening Underway]]>Tue, 27 Sep 2016 13:33:41 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/NC_zikablood0926_1920x1080.jpgMore blood centers are screening donations for possible Zika virus contamination as FDA's November deadline approaches.

Photo Credit: KPLC]]>
<![CDATA[Blood Donations in Texas Now Tested for Zika Virus]]>Thu, 22 Sep 2016 22:38:06 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika+testing.jpg

Blood from donors in Texas is now being tested for Zika virus infection, in an effort to prevent the virus from being spread through transfusions.

The testing has already found signs of the virus in a pint of donated blood from the Austin area and another donated in Midland.

"We don't know if they're confirmed yet, but we do know that it was at least initially reactive for the Zika virus," said Nancy Haubert, at Creative Testing Solutions in Bedford.

Texas is among 11 states which were given until Friday to begin testing the blood supply for the Zika virus.

Florida and Puerto Rico began testing for Zika earlier this summer, and remaining states have until Nov. 18 to begin testing.

"We are considered to be at a slightly higher risk than the rest of the country of having Zika here," said Dr. Geeta Paranjape, medical director at Carter BloodCare in Bedford.

"We do have a lot of people who travel," Paranjape added. "And people who travel to South America and at-risk countries are going to bring it back not knowing that they may have contracted it."

Carter BloodCare supplies about 90 percent of the blood supply used in North-Central Texas and East Texas, and will begin testing for the Zika virus beginning Friday.

The American Red Cross began Zika testing on blood donated in Texas on Aug. 29.

Blood that tests positive for Zika will not be used, and the local health department will be notified to follow up with the donor.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Tarrant Co. Resident Who Traveled to Miami Has Zika: TCPH]]>Wed, 21 Sep 2016 17:06:22 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Mosquito-GettyImages-513621730.jpg

A Tarrant County resident has been diagnosed with the Zika virus after traveling to Miami, health officials say Wednesday.

This is the first such case in the county – and the second in Texas – involving a person diagnosed with Zika after traveling to an affected area of Florida.

No other information was released, in order to protect the identity of the person involved.

The Tarrant County Public Health Department said the state health department tested and confirmed the sample for Zika.

There have been 22 reported cases of Zika in Tarrant County to date, including 21 cases involving travel to Zika-affected areas outside of the United States.

Still, no known Zika cases have been transmitted locally by mosquitoes, local health officials confirm -- all local cases have been imported with the exception of one case in Dallas County that is believed to have been spread by sexual contact.

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, a known aggressive daytime biter. Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week, though there can be profound impact to a developing fetus should the mother contract the virus.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.

TCPH's Zika Hotline at 817-248-6299 is available to help answer any questions residents may have about this disease. For more information on Zika virus and for other useful tips, click here.



Photo Credit: LatinContent/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Zika Mosquitoes Can Survive Over Next Months in Southern US]]>Tue, 20 Sep 2016 09:55:34 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Puerto-Rico-AP_71939457309.jpg

Even as a trendy Miami neighborhood has been declared Zika-free, the mosquitoes that transmit the virus can continue to survive over the next few months across the southeast United States from Florida to Texas, research shows.

The potential for an abundant population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito remains moderate or even high through November in the southernmost cities in the country, according to a study, “On the seasonal occurrence and abundance of the Zika virus vector mosquito Aedes aegypti in the contiguous United States.”

Florida with its hot, humid weather is particularly vulnerable. In November, the threat will be high in and around Miami and moderate in Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa, in New Orleans and in Houston and Brownsville, Texas.

Only in December will the risk decrease enough so that Miami alone will have a moderate potential for a significant supply of mosquitoes. Elsewhere in Florida, Louisiana and Texas there will still be some potential, though a low one.

Winter weather will be too cold for the mosquitoes elsewhere.

“When a mosquito bites someone and gets a virus it needs a week or two depending on temperature to actually incubate a virus — for it to move from its mid gut up to its salivary glands,” said the study’s lead author, Andrew Monaghan, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. “If you’re in cooler areas, not only is that slower but mosquitoes often won’t survive it long enough to go through that extrinsic incubation period.”

The study, which looked at 50 cities within the range of Aedes aegypti, was published in March before locally transmitted cases of Zika were discovered in Florida — 70 cases in all, many in the Wynwood arts neighborhood of Miami and across Biscayne Bay in Miami Beach. Authorities in Florida say that they have found the virus in mosquitoes trapped in a 1.5-square-mile area of Miami Beach, a first for the continental United States.

On Monday, officials declared the first Zika outbreak on the continental United States to be over. No new cases of Zika have been found in Wynwood for 45 days, which represent three full incubation periods for the virus. However more cases were found in Miami Beach last week.

Monaghan and the study’s other authors had warned that the prevalence of Aedes aegypti would likely increase as the weather got warmer.

From New York to LA
Researchers found that conditions in the United States are mostly unsuitable for the mosquitoes from December through March, except in southern Florida and south Texas, where the potential for an abundant population is low to moderate.

In the peak summer months, July through September, the mosquito can thrive in all 50 cities -- as far north as New York City along the East Coast and as far west as Los Angeles across the southern portion of the country, according to computer simulations run by researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. The mosquitoes are most abundant in the Southeast, particularly southern Florida, and south Texas where locally acquired cases of Aedes-transmitted viruses have been reported previously. Higher poverty rates in cities along the U.S.-Mexico border may result in increased exposure to the mosquito.

But Zika is unlikely to spread widely in the United States as it has done in the Caribbean and Latin America, experts say. That’s because so many Americans live in air-conditioned homes and work in air-conditioned offices.

Zika was first identified in 1947 in Uganda, and has moved through tropical regions of the world over the past 10 years, according to experts.

The role of climate change
One question has been the role climate change is playing in the widespread Zika epidemic. Sharyn Stein, a climate scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, said that though many factors can affect the spread of a disease like Zika, mosquito seasons are lasting longer.

“In some places it’s lasted three or four weeks longer than usual and so people will be exposed to mosquitoes carrying Zika for a lot longer period of time,” she said.

But how a warmer warm will influence the spread of the virus is not known, she said.

Much is not known about the virus and the latest mystery is how a dying man in Utah infected his son. Doctors in Utah warned that blood and other body fluids of people who are severely ill might be infectious.

Although most people with Zika have more mild symptoms, the disease can cause microcephaly in babies — and the accompanying devastating birth defects.

“While there is much we still don’t know about the dynamics of Zika virus transmission, understanding where the Aedes aegypti mosquito can survive in the U.S. and how its abundance fluctuates seasonally may help guide mosquito control efforts and public health preparedness,” Monaghan said when the study was released.

A battle over funding
President Obama has asked for $1.9 billion in emergency funding; Congress countered with $1.1 billion but has not passed the legislation. Republicans tried to prevent money from going to clinics in Puerto Rico run by ProFamilias, a Planned Parenthood partner, as part of their approval -- a provision Democrats have refused to agree to. This week, 77 mayors, including those of Miami Beach, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston, wrote to the Congressional leadership urging that Congress work together.

“Congress’ persistent inaction has forced the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to use more than $10 million of its funding for cancer and heart disease research for Zika,” the mayors wrote. “In total, $670 million has been diverted from other health priorities to fund Zika research. In addition, the CDC estimates that it will run out of funding to combat Zika at the end of this month, just as mosquito season reaches its peak.”

The CDC reports 20,870 cases of the Zika virus in the United States and its territories —  3,176 in the states and the District of Columbia, most of those brought by travelers, and 17,694 in the territories. So far, 1,887 pregnant women have tested positive for the virus, 731 in the states and 1,156 in the territories. Twenty-five babies are affected, according to the CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat.  

“The critical resources that President Obama has requested would help prevent the spread of the virus by allowing local governments to work in cooperation with the CDC and the NIH to enhance mosquito control, conduct tests, and deploy a critical Zika vaccine,” they wrote.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has singled out the Obama administration and Democrats for blame.

A long history in the US
The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also spreads viruses for yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya, has been in the United States since at least the mid-1600s, when the first cases of yellow fever were documented. It transmitted yellow fever up the northeastern seaboard as far as New York and dengue as early as 1780 in Pennsylvania.

“Conditions were more suitable for Aedes aegypti in the northeastern U.S. a couple of hundred years ago when piped water access was lower, sanitation was much worse,” Monaghan said. “And human exposure was higher as well. People weren’t living in air-conditioned, screened environments. The likelihood of them coming into contact with this mosquito was much higher.”

The mosquito was nearly eradicated in the United States in the first half of the 20th century but has since rebounded, though today its range has contracted to the southern tier and up the eastern seaboard.

Monaghan said he and his colleagues are working to improve their modeling so that public health and mosquito control officials could provide early warnings — not just of when the Aedes aegypti populations are elevated but also what might influence the transmission of the virus and other projections.

They noted that northern cities could become more vulnerable if a related species of mosquito, Aedes albopictus, starts to carry the virus. Aedes albopictus is more tolerant of the cold.



Photo Credit: ap
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<![CDATA[Florida Gov. Demands Zika Funds]]>Wed, 14 Sep 2016 06:06:42 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/180*120/scott-rick-close-up.jpg

Florida GOP Gov. Rick Scott came to Washington on Tuesday to press for long-overdue money to fight the Zika virus, making his case for the money with top congressional Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan _ while blasting away at the Obama administration and Democrats like three-term Florida Sen. Bill Nelson.

"In our state we started having (Zika) cases back in February. I've been asking for Congress to be a partner since then. I've asked for the federal government to do funding. They haven't done it," Scott said Tuesday as he left a meeting with Ryan, R-Wis. "The Obama administration's not been a good partner."

Scott made his trip as lawmakers struggle to reach a bipartisan deal to fund the government's months-long battle against Zika, which is a major hang-up for a temporary spending bill that's the top item on Capitol Hill's slim pre-election agenda. Zika can cause grave birth defects and other health problems, and can be passed on by mosquito bites and sexual contact.

Senate Democrats have repeatedly filibustered a $1.1 billion Zika measure drafted by Republicans, chiefly over a provision sought by anti-abortion forces that is designed to make Planned Parenthood clinics in Puerto Rico ineligible for grants to provide medical care and contraception to help fight the virus.

"Bill Nelson, the senator from Florida, basically voted against $1.1 billion in federal funding last week, so he turned his back on Floridians," Scott said. "This is about pregnant women and developing babies and he said, you know, that he was going to play politics instead."

Nelson was unimpressed.

"Just as we're about to reach a deal to pass a clean emergency Zika funding bill, the governor chooses to fly up here and stir things up politically," Nelson said. "He should know better. This is a serious situation, not a time for partisan politics."

As for Ryan, Scott said: "He's going to work hard to get it done."

Obama requested $1.9 billion more than six months ago to battle Zika, but Republicans controlling Congress were slow to respond. The Senate passed a bipartisan $1.1 billion Zika-fighting measure in May, but House Republicans have insisted on making sure Planned Parenthood is ineligible for the new money and have demanded offsetting spending cuts to defray the measure's cost.

Democrats say the money is a true emergency and shouldn't have to be offset. But their chief objection is to the idea that Planned Parenthood should be singled out and made ineligible for money to battle the virus in Puerto Rico. Most Republicans are staunch opponents of Planned Parenthood, which is a major provider of abortions and has come under assault for its practices in providing fetal tissue to researchers.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Zika Affected Woman's Brain and Memory, Doctors Say]]>Tue, 13 Sep 2016 07:27:26 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/184*120/AHORA-BEBE-ZIKA.jpg

The Zika virus is known to cause devastating damage to the brains of developing fetuses and now there is evidence that the virus could be more damaging to adults than has been believed, NBC News reported.

Italian researchers say they've found evidence Zika can affect the brains of adults, and may damage memory. A letter published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases describes the case of a 32-year-old volunteer nurse infected with Zika in the Dominican Republic, who was treated for rash, headache and weakness.

"In our case, the patient reported early neurologic symptoms and moderate memory impairment in neuropsychologic examinations, all features consistent with the diagnosis of Zika virus-related encephalitis," the team at the National Institute for Infectious Diseases Lazzaro Spallanzani in Rome wrote. The doctors cited a recent study showing Zika might affect the adult brain.

Still, doctors stress that most people infected with Zika have very mild symptoms and often do not even know they have it.

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<![CDATA[Few People Tested for Zika in Some Higher Risk TX Counties]]>Tue, 13 Sep 2016 03:59:35 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/mosquito+sample.jpg

In the sweltering Rio Grande Valley, just north of the Texas-Mexico border, concerns about Zika virus travel through the streets.

Rafael Prado is a volunteer who goes door-to-door passing out health department warnings in neighborhoods in Hidalgo and Starr counties.

At one home he finds Irma Castillo, pregnant and due in November, worried about Zika infection.

"Well, it scares you. I mean, it being my first child, it's something that really concerns me," expressed Castillo.

Mosquito transmission of Zika could happen almost anywhere in Texas, but some experts fear counties along the Mexican border and the Gulf Coast are among the areas most at risk.

Neighborhoods near the border, known as the Colonias, present some of the biggest concerns for health officials. There are many vacant lots and places for mosquitoes to breed, and many families who live there travel back and forth to Mexico all the time where Zika has already taken hold.

But despite the risks, an NBC 5 investigation found few people have been tested for Zika in some border and Gulf Coast counties in Texas.

More than 800,000 live in Hidalgo County, but the local health department said it has submitted Zika tests for just 25 people to the state health department.

The local health department said only nine people have been tested in Brazoria County, 12 in El Paso County, four in Webb County and just six in Nueces County.

In several other nearby counties, Zapata, Duval and Jim Hogg, a health official tells NBC 5 Investigates not one Zika test has been submitted to the state.

Dr. Peter Hotez is the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine in Houston. NBC 5 Investigates shared those numbers and his reaction is that of concern.

"It means there's no active surveillance. We are not doing any active detection of Zika transmission," said Hotez.

He fears a lack of testing in some south Texas counties could cause dangerous delays in detecting the first cases of local transmission of Zika.

"A key point here is that we may already have transmission underway in Texas, Louisiana and the Gulf Coast," said Hotez.

Hotez thinks transmission could be happening without anyone knowing, because no one is looking hard enough.

Hotez believes health officials need to implement "active surveillance" teams in hospitals or clinics in some counties to aggressively test more people with fevers and rashes, seeking out possible Zika cases.

Eddie Olivarez, the Hidalgo County health director, said his county does not have funding to conduct active surveillance like Hotez suggests.

In his county health lab, they have a tiny room where they can analyze mosquitoes but there's no equipment for human Zika testing. They depend on the state for that.

And there's no staff here to run a more aggressive active surveillance program even if it might help.

"Definitely would be very helpful -- it would be very supportive of the community if that capacity was made available to us to expand the number of people being tested, of course, within the guidance and criteria to provide testing for," said Olivarez.

NBC 5 Investigates went to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to see if they can do more to help Texas.

At the CDC's operations center, NBC 5 Investigates interviewed Dr. Lyle Peterson, who's in charge of the federal government's Zika response.

Petersen said he's concerned not enough testing is being done but that the CDC can't afford to put active surveillance teams in Texas.

Less than two weeks ago, the CDC announced it's nearly out of Zika funding. Plus, Peterson said frontline testing is really the state's job.

"Public health in the United States is really the domain of the states. We assist health departments, but it's really up to the health departments to mobilize the troops out there," said Peterson.

But at the state health department in Austin, officials told NBC 5 Investigates they can't afford an active surveillance program either.

"If we were given money to do that kind of sentinel surveillance that Dr. Hotez is very interested in, we would do it. We don't have the funds and we don't have the system in place to get that done," said Dr. John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Hellerstedt said it would also be hard to choose where to send active surveillance teams because the possibility of local transmission is widespread across the state. But even without those surveillance teams, he's confident Texas doctors will spot any possible Zika cases and get patients tested.

"I have every reason to believe the physicians are doing a good job of referring these people for testing," said Hellerstedt.

Hellerstedt said the state is doing a lot of outreach to doctors to encourage them to test more patients with symptoms.

But some experts fear the process of sending tests to the state lab is time consuming and many doctors won't do it if the patient only has mild symptoms or is not pregnant. That could miss opportunities to spot locally transmission as early as possible.

Hotez argues the low number of tests sent from some counties proves that.

"It's expecting too much, because they're not doing it," said Hotez.

NBC 5 Investigates spoke to doctors who said the paperwork involved with submitting Zika tests to the state can take 30 minutes to complete and that discourages some doctors from doing it.

The state said it recognizes the time it takes to fill out the paperwork, but argues the information needed on the forms is important so they won't change the process.

Some doctors are now sending tests to private labs to avoid the state process, and that has likely increased the amount of testing occurring in some places.

Hotez said the state and feds need to find the funding to do what's best to protect people.

"Month after month after month passed and really, right now, no program is in place in terms of active surveillance," said Hotez.

As more weeks go by he worries about pregnant women, like Irma Castillo.

"You know, just to be inside a certain amount of time, it's not a good thing," said Castillo, who is staying indoors to avoid mosquito bites.

She lives in a place where the risk is high and the warnings are out. But it's a place where some still wonder if health officials are missing chances to protect people.

"We have had so much lead time and that is what's so astonishing," said Hotez.

NBC 5 Investigates found much more testing is occurring in Dallas and Tarrant counties because local health department labs can now conduct Zika tests on their own, and they've partnered with local hospitals to make the process easier for doctors. But that is not happened in many smaller counties with fewer resources.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[UNT Students Look For Zika Virus In Mosquitoes]]>Tue, 13 Sep 2016 04:06:52 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Large-Zika.jpg

Graduate students at the University of North Texas are at the front lines of the battle against the West Nile virus.

They're testing mosquitoes for the disease that has already affected dozens of North Texans this year and now, they're tracking possible Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

"It's probably a given that Zika is going to get here sometime. No idea when that is going to happen, but it’s already established in Florida and no doubt it’ll do that here," said James Kennedy, Regents Professor and Director of the Elm Fork Education Center and Natural Heritage Museum.

Students in the West Nile laboratory have been monitoring mosquitoes in Denton for 12 years, monitoring movement of West Nile virus and mosquito populations.

The UNT/City of Denton partnership was the first to discover local West Nile virus carrying mosquitoes in North Texas.

"At that particular time, no one in this area was really doing any work with mosquitoes," Kennedy said.

Now, any mosquito students send to the state lab in Austin is tested for the Zika virus.

"We are that front line. We are going to be the people that are going to be the canary in the wind to warn people that Zika is here and now it’s not only in humans, but also in our mosquito population," said Kennedy.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dallas Leaders Give OK to Aerial Mosquito Spraying]]>Wed, 07 Sep 2016 17:32:33 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/090616+aerial+spraying+miami+beach.jpgDallas city leaders endorsed the option Wednesday of aerial mosquito spraying to fight the local transmission of Zika virus.]]><![CDATA[Rep. Warns of Zika With Mosquitoes]]>Wed, 07 Sep 2016 15:08:35 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/090716+david+jolly+zika+mosquitoes.jpg

Florida Republican Rep. David Jolly brought a container of mosquitoes onto the House floor Wednesday to criticize Congress for failing to pass legislation to combat the mosquito-borne Zika virus in the Sunshine State.

"I rise with about 100 mosquitoes straight from Florida...mosquitoes capable of carrying the Zika virus," Jolly said, holding the container. "This is the reason for the urgency, this is the reason for the fear."

The bill, providing $1.1 billion to help combat the virus, is stalled in the Senate, where Democrats are blocking it in a dispute over restrictions the bill would place on funding for Planned Parenthood clinics.

Jolly, who represents the 13th District in Pinellas County, said the mosquitoes, still in their larval stage, came from researchers at the University of South Florida and aren't active carriers.

There have been 56 non-travel related Zika cases in Florida, many of them in Miami-Dade's "Zika zones" in Wynwood and Miami Beach, according to the Florida Department of Health. Additionally, some 577 travel-related Zika cases have been reported throughout Florida.

Jolly said he brought the mosquitoes to the House to convey the fear Floridians are feeling.

"It is our job to respond to the fear and the anxiety and the anger of a population concerned about a pending public health crisis, concerned about mosquitoes," he said. "You see, I brought these mosquitoes here today to convey that fear and that anxiety of millions of Americans and Floridians.

"Can you imagine, colleagues, the fear and anxiety in this chamber if these 100 mosquitoes were outside this jar, not inside this jar? Members of Congress would run down the hall to the physician's office to be tested, they would spray themselves before coming down here. This is the fear of Floridians right here."

Jolly is locked in a tough race in a redrawn congressional district against former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who has since changed his affiliation to Democrat.

The congressman said Floridians are angry. He said it is too bad that candidates are going to spend money on campaign commercials about Zika, instead of responding together to solve the public health crisis.

"The time for politics of Zika is over. The politics of Zika are garbage right now," he said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Rep. David Jolly / YouTube
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<![CDATA[Parkland Hospital Prepares for Zika-Affected Pregnancies]]>Fri, 02 Sep 2016 23:59:45 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Parkland+Pregnancy.jpg

The Zika program at Parkland Memorial Hospital is made of two components: educating pregnant women about Zika and screening them for the virus.

If they screen positive, they're brought to the new specialized Zika clinic.

Created in March, the Zika clinic is on the third floor of the hospital's WISH Clinic, the Women & Infants Specialty Health Clinic.  

A Zika czar leads the medical team, which includes maternal and fetal specialists with training in infectious disease, who meet pregnant women suspected of carrying the virus once a week.

So far, of the 12,000 pregnant women who've been screened since March, 300 to 400 of them screened positive for Zika, meaning they've possibly been exposed to virus while in another country.

Of that number, only 14 pregnant women exhibited Zika symptoms.

Only one of those women tested postive for Zika and doctors say she delivered a healthy baby who showed no signs of the virus, such as birth defects like microcephaly.

"Our patients who we even suspect might have Zika are all assigned to this clinic. They're followed alot more closely than say a routine pregnancy with no concerns.  We see them alot more often," says Dr. Joseph Chang, Associate Chief Medical Officer of Outpatient Ambulatory Services at Parkland Health & Hospital.

Chang says the hospital followed guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control to create its Zika procedures.

"It is a big challenge, especially when we are faced with so many other challenges, but mainly what we try to do is focus our efforts on our national agencies, like the Centers for Disease Control and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. They are generally very good about putting out the information that they know and then we like to model our program after theirs," said Chang.

Women who are registered in the Zika program may be seen as frequently as once a week. 

Doctors will also perform multiple detailed, or targeted ultrasounds, in which they look for signs of microcephaly or abnormal growth in the fetus.

"All mothers who are suspected of having been exposed to Zika, much less have Zika already, are connected with pediatric services during the antenatal period, before their babies are born, and then those babies of any of the suspected cases will be followed immediately after birth by our pediatric specialists," said Chang.

The hospital is on track to deliver 12,000 babies this year and no baby has exhibited signs of the Zika virus.

However, the vital component to the program, according to administrators, is education.

During screening, pregnant women receive personalized information on how to prevent the spread of the virus and protect their unborn child.

"We see a huge population of Hispanic patients.  This population tends to travel to see family members a little more often than maybe other populations do.

Unfortunately, right now, Zika is more endemic in those areas," said Chang.

"They also have economic challenges in terms of trying to constantly buy mosquito repellent to put on everyone in their family," he added.

"They’re really busy with extra jobs, distracted by alot of other socio-economic issues, so it’s really hard to remember to put that repellant on every two hours."

As the public hospital for Dallas County, Parkland officials say they're prepared for a possible increase in cases of microcephaly and other ZIka-related defects.

"We are ready. Don’t worry, there is a place for you to come," said Chang.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Puerto Rico Is Ground Zero for Zika Outbreak]]>Fri, 02 Sep 2016 22:35:57 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika-puerto-rico1.jpg

In the rolling hills of southern Puerto Rico, in the 500-year-old village of Coamo, the music blares from the back of a pickup truck rolling through neighborhoods.

The song warns about the dangers of mosquitoes that carry Zika virus.

As the music gets the attention of residents, a small army of city workers, including the town’s mayor, goes door to door handing out kits with mosquito repellent. Insecticide is sprayed nearby.

The scene in Coamo, a picturesque, mostly Catholic town miles from the beach, is playing out across Puerto Rico.

The prevention efforts are in response to startling numbers showing that Zika is spreading wildly all over the island.

"This is dangerous to our people, to the ladies, to the old people," said Coamo Mayor Juan Carlos "Tato" Garcia Padilla. "We need the help of our people."

Some 2,000 people a week are getting infected and, if current trends hold, a quarter of the island’s 3.5 million people could get Zika by the end of this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even the many people who show no symptoms can become carriers without knowing it. Tourists can unknowingly carry the virus back to the mainland.

Health experts fear the real impact will be on babies born with life-long disabilities.

The spread of the Zika virus has prompted the World Health Organization to declare an international health emergency. Carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, Zika can cause microcephaly in babies, who have unusually small heads and brain damage. A recent study of brain scans of Brazilian babies showed other damage as well.

In adults, Zika virus is also linked with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a form of temporary paralysis, according to the CDC.

There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.

Zika emerged in the Americas in mid-2015 and since then outbreaks have occurred in multiple South American and Caribbean countries, and now Florida, according to the CDC.

Dr. Judibelle Rivera, an obstetrician and gynecologist in Coamo, is telling patients to wait a year or two before getting pregnant.

She passes out free government-provided birth control, even though fewer pregnancies mean her practice will take a financial hit.

"It's worth it because having babies with something like a handicap for the rest of their lives, that's not good,” she said.

Dr. Nabal Bracero, who runs a fertility clinic in San Juan, echoed her concerns.

"It is a nightmare,” he said. “It is the worst situation you can have in terms of public health."

Some 1,314 pregnant women in Puerto Rico have tested positive for Zika, the CDC said. The numbers are climbing.

Dr. Brenda Rivera heads the fight against the epidemic for the Puerto Rico Health Department.

"I'm at the forefront of the response, so for me it's not just a number," she said. "When I see these numbers go up, it's not just a number, there's a family, there's an individual behind that number. And for me that's very real."

Emergency responders are fanning out across the island, led by Puerto Rico’s emergency management director Angel Crespo.

"It's kind of crazy stuff to deal with it,” said Crespo, who is also the island’s fire chief. "Right now we are incorporating artists. I’m a musician too."

He wrote the Zika prevention song they were playing in Coamo and even made a music video posted on YouTube.

“Ten cuidado del mosquito te pica,” the song starts. It means, “Be careful of the mosquito biting you.”

"We need to explain this seriously, loud and clear, so people can understand how serious is the Zika virus,” Crespo said.

The US government, including a team from the CDC, is helping organize the growing response.

Standing water, especially around houses, has become a target.

The effort reaches to places you might not expect -- even cemeteries. That's because the water in the vases for flowers are mosquito breeding grounds. Workers have turned many of the vases upside down.

But the challenges are monumental. The tropical climate in Puerto Rico means it rains frequently. Puddles form everywhere.

And there are other challenges.

Plans for aerial spraying got shelved amid a public outcry about chemicals being dropped from the air.

The Zika scare comes as Puerto Rico is in the middle of a financial crisis. It can’t pay billions of dollars in debt and tourism is one of the only bright spots in the economy.

Money from the federal government to fight Zika is slow to make it to the front lines.

Even with better funding, the kind of mosquitoes that carry Zika are especially hard to kill.

"There is one insecticide that is working better than the others, but still there is widespread resistance to it," said Dr. Roberto Barrera, chief of entomology for the CDC.

The CDC is advising pregnant women not to go to Puerto Rico and telling visitors to wait at least eight weeks before trying to get pregnant.

Despite the threat, the head of Puerto Rico’s Hotel and Tourism Association said the island is open for business.

“You have to look at the facts – facts versus the fear,” said Clarisa Jimenez.

She called estimates that a quarter of the island could become infected a “worst-case scenario,” but acknowledged pregnant women should stay away and urged everyone to wear repellent.

Many hotels remain busy and tourists still flock to Old San Juan to visit the fortified beach-front walls that have helped defend the island for generations.

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport offers daily nonstop flights to the capital of San Juan.

As a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico is neither a state nor a country. Its 3.5 million residents are American citizens.

A New York man visiting a San Juan beach said he felt safe.

“You’re a little precautious, you know, but it’s not going to beat the vacation,” Diego Suiter said.

Back in Texas, through Aug. 29, there have been 133 confirmed cases of Zika virus this year. This count includes six pregnant women, two infants infected before birth, and one person who had sexual contact with a traveler. Harris County has had the most cases with 35, but is followed closely by Dallas County with 30. Elsewhere in North Texas, Tarrant County has reported 17 cases, Collin County three and Denton County four.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Millions Of Bees Mistakenly Killed]]>Fri, 02 Sep 2016 16:30:14 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/NC_beeskilled0901_1920x1080.jpgSouth Carolina county spraying for mosquitoes accidentally wipes out several honey bee colonies, leaving beekeepers furious.

Photo Credit: WCBD]]>
<![CDATA[Grand Prairie Confirms 3rd Case of Zika]]>Thu, 01 Sep 2016 17:08:52 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-594886094-news.jpg

Grand Prairie will spray for mosquitoes Thursday and Friday after a resident contracted Zika virus while traveling, city officials say.

The city released no information about the patient or where they contracted the virus, but did say they would spray for mosquitoes both on the ground and by truck.

The truck-based fogging will take place Thursday and Friday beginning at 9 p.m.

The area to be sprayed is generally bound by Bluegrass Drive on the north, South Belt Line Road to the east, Holly Hill Drive to the south and Bluegrass Road, Kentucky Drive and Bold Forbes Drive on the west.

"Residents in these areas are advised to stay indoors, keep pets inside, and cover fish ponds during those times. Spraying will be rescheduled if wind speeds are above 10 mph or in the event of rain. A map of these areas are available at gptx.org," the city said in a news release. "All Grand Prairie residents are asked to help eliminate the areas that mosquitoes need to breed by emptying, removing or covering any receptacle that can hold water."

Still, no known Zika cases have been transmitted locally by mosquitoes, local health officials confirm -- all local cases have been imported with the exception of one case in Dallas County that is believed to have been spread by sexual contact.

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, a known aggressive daytime biter. Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week, though there can be profound impact to a developing fetus should the mother contract the virus.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[32nd Zika Case Confirmed in Dallas County]]>Thu, 01 Sep 2016 16:45:43 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika+pensilvania+9+feb2.jpg

Another Dallas County resident has contracted the Zika virus while traveling, public health department officials say.

The patient, 16, is the 32nd Dallas County resident to contract the illness while traveling abroad; the latest case was contracted in Puerto Rico.

After confirming the cases through a private lab, the cases were referred to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Other than the patient being a resident of Irving, no other health information will be released about the patient.

Still, no known Zika cases have been transmitted locally by mosquitoes, local health officials confirm -- all local cases have been imported with the exception of one case in Dallas County that is believed to have been spread by sexual contact.

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, a known aggressive daytime biter. Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week, though there can be profound impact to a developing fetus should the mother contract the virus.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.


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<![CDATA[CDC Official: Zika Fight Tougher Than Dallas Ebola Crisis]]>Thu, 01 Sep 2016 04:11:55 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/cdc+atlanta+sign.jpg

The doctor in charge of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's response to the Zika virus says the battle against the mosquito-borne illness is proving even more challenging than the Ebola crisis in Dallas two years ago.

Dr. Lyle Petersen, a CDC veteran who traveled to Dallas to manage the agency's response to Ebola, now serves as CDC's Zika incident manager.

In an interview with NBC 5 Investigates, Peterson said as bad as the Ebola situation was, Zika in many ways poses tougher problems for health officials because of how it's spread, both by mosquitoes and sexual transmission.

"Very strict infection control we knew could control Ebola. With this, it's a completely different story. We are learning new things every single day," Petersen said.

Petersen describes his current job as a surprise a minute, with some new development to react to every day – from concerns about Zika-related birth defects in babies to the discovery of locally transmitted Zika cases in Miami.

In an interview, Petersen said he's very concerned about Zika in Texas right now. He said it's still a good possibility Texas will see locally transmitted Zika cases by the end of November.

Petersen said Texas doctors need to be on alert now more than ever to watch for possible Zika cases with the state in the height of the mosquito season. Spotting locally transmitted cases early would be a key to stopping the spread if it happens in Texas.

"What keeps me up at night is just worrying about women getting infected, and the adverse effects on their babies and what's going to happen to those families," Petersen said.

Inside the CDC's sprawling Atlanta campus, crisis managers are working around the clock in the agency's emergency operations center, communicating with local health officials and making key decisions on how to respond.

At least 1,000 CDC employees have worked on Zika so far.

Adding to their worries, Petersen says the CDC is running short on Zika funding. And if there's a new outbreak in another state, like Texas, the agency says it may not be able send emergency funds.

"We are very close to running out of money, and I'm not a financial person but it is true we are really down to the bottom of the barrel," Petersen said.

Congress is expected to take up the Zika funding issue again next week when members return from summer break.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Collateral Damage: Bees Die in South Carolina Zika Spraying]]>Wed, 31 Aug 2016 16:24:29 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Deadbees2.jpg

There's been some collateral damage in the fight against Zika - millions of honeybees in South Carolina.

Dorchester County officials have apologized for killing the bees when the county failed to notify local beekeepers about mosquito spraying last weekend, according to local news outlets.

Four travel-related cases of the Zika virus have been confirmed in the county northwest of Charleston. Aerial mosquito spraying operations were conducted Sunday morning.

Flowertown Bee Farm and Supply in Summerville lost more than two million bees. Company co-owner Juanita Stanley says the farm "looks like it's been nuked." Andrew Macke, a hobby beekeeper, says he lost thousands of bees.

The county usually notifies beekeepers before it sprays for mosquitoes. Officials say Sunday was the first time spraying had been done from the air.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Flowertown Bee Farm and Supplies]]>
<![CDATA[Orlando Theme Parks Offer Bug Spray to Ease Zika Fears]]>Mon, 29 Aug 2016 14:06:18 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Disney-GettyImages-94967642.jpg

Florida's major theme parks are now offering free bug repellent to visitors as concerns about mosquito-transmitted Zika virus mount.

Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando on Sunday began offering the mosquito spray and lotion free of charge at their parks.

No mosquito-transmitted case of the Zika virus has been found in central Florida. But theme park officials say they're offering the repellent as a precaution and to ease the fears of visitors.

The Department of Health is investigating mosquito-transmitted Zika cases in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties in South Florida, as well as in Pinellas County in the Tampa area.

Zika causes a mild illness in most people but can lead to severe brain-related birth defects if women are infected during pregnancy.

On Friday, Miami Beach city officials took part in a roundtable discussion with Governor Rick Scott and others, discussing the strategy at both the state and local level to fight the spread of the mosquito-borne disease.

Also Friday, the Food and Drug Administration announced it wants all U.S. blood banks to start screening for Zika virus, a major expansion intended to protect the nation's blood supply from the mosquito-borne disease.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Denton Sprays for Mosquitoes Near Zika Patient's Home]]>Mon, 29 Aug 2016 18:00:27 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika+spraying+in+Denton.jpg

The City of Denton hired Municipal Mosquito to spray for mosquitoes in a southwest Denton neighborhood after a resident contracted the Zika virus while traveling abroad.

City Environmental Services Director Dr. Kenneth Banks directed crews to the area near the intersection of Buena Vista Drive and Almonte.

The Denton County Health Department alerted the city about the case on Friday.

"For West Nile, we're trying to protect people from getting exposed to mosquitoes," said Banks. "Right now, we're trying to prevent mosquitoes from being exposed to the infected person."

Unlike West Nile virus spraying events, which have trucks fogging the neighborhood from the street, Zika spraying requires an up-close approach.

"This type of treatment is up close and personal. Zika is a battle of individual properties, not of zip codes," said Municipal Mosquito entomologist and president Patrick Pratcher. "West Nile you may treat an actual zip code. With Zika, you're interested in the number of houses."

Pratcher said his team has been out 20 times in various areas across North Texas this season to help prevent the spread of Zika. He said he expects to be out even more.

The City of Denton said mosquitoes that carry Zika breed close to homes and don't fly far from that area. In order to spray for the bugs, crews gained permission from homeowners to enter private property and spray using hand-held devices.

"This is a proper response for a travel case of Zika to keep the virus from being introduced to the broader population," said Pratcher. "We're just not out treating the grass or treating the open air. We're treating the areas where mosquitoes like to rest during the day and where they rest before they come out."

City leaders stress that the spraying is a precautionary move and that there has been no local transmission of the virus by mosquitoes.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA[Tarrant County Confirms 17th Case of Zika Virus]]>Mon, 29 Aug 2016 13:47:41 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Mosquito-GettyImages-513621730.jpg

A 17th person has been diagnosed with Zika virus in Tarrant County, public health department officials say.

Tarrant County Public Health's North Texas Regional Laboratory received, tested and confirmed the sample.

The patient contracted the illness while traveling in Costa Rica, a country known to have local transmission of the disease, TCPH officials said in a statement Monday.

TCPH said no other health information will be released about the patient, as per usual, to protect his or her identity.

Previous cases in Tarrant County were imported from the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Honduras (3), Jamaica, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico (3), St. Lucia (2), St. Martin and two unknown locations.

Still, no known Zika cases have been transmitted locally by mosquitoes, local health officials confirm -- all local cases have been imported with the exception of one case in Dallas County that is believed to have been spread by sexual contact.

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, a known aggressive daytime biter. Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week, though there can be profound impact to a developing fetus should the mother contract the virus.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.

TCPH's Zika Hotline at 817-248-6299 is available to help answer any questions residents may have about this disease. For more information on Zika virus and for other useful tips, click here.



Photo Credit: LatinContent/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Denton Mosquito Spraying Deadline Approaches]]>Sun, 28 Aug 2016 10:58:55 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-594886094-news.jpgDenton officials hope to begin spraying for mosquitoes Monday but must first get the sign off from affected residents.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Denton To Spray for Zika Carrying Mosquitoes]]>Mon, 29 Aug 2016 07:41:27 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/082716+Buena+Vista+Drive+Denton.jpg

City leaders are preparing to spray for mosquitoes in a southwest Denton neighborhood after a resident contracted the Zika virus while traveling abroad.

The Denton County Health Department alerted the city about the case late Friday.

City spokesperson Lindsey Baker said in a press release Saturday that the patient recently traveled to Puerto Rico and may have contracted the virus there.

As a result, City Environmental Services Director Dr. Kenneth Banks has contacted a company to spray for mosquitoes in the area around the 1600 block of Buena Vista Drive.

Unlike West Nile virus spraying events, which have trucks fogging the neighborhood from the streets, Zika spraying requires an up-close approach.

Banks said the particular mosquitoes that carry Zika breed close to homes and don’t fly far from that area. In order to spray for the bugs, crews actually have to enter private property and spray using handheld systems.

Saturday morning, firefighters from Denton Station 6 went door-to-door in the affected area and began asking permission from residents to spray on their properties.

“We’ve met with about 60 percent,” said Banks. “So far we have not had a refusal.”

The firefighters left information sheets and notifications on the doors of the homes where there wasn’t an answer, and Banks said they would circle back with those folks to ask their permission.

If they are able to get all of the proper permissions and if the weather continues to cooperate, Banks hopes they will be able to conduct the spraying early next week, hopefully starting mid-morning on Monday. The mosquito that carries Zika is present during the daylight hours and requires the spraying during that time, said Banks.

City leaders do stress that the spraying is a precautionary move and that there has been no local transmission of the virus by mosquitoes; something they hope to avoid with this action.


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<![CDATA[FDA Expands Zika Screening to All US Blood Centers]]>Fri, 26 Aug 2016 13:51:32 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/3-10_mosquito.jpg

The Food and Drug Administration wants all U.S. blood centers to start screening for Zika, a major expansion intended to protect the nation's blood supply from the mosquito-borne virus.

Friday's advisory means all U.S. states and territories will need to begin testing blood donations for Zika. Previously, the FDA had limited the requirement to Puerto Rico and two Florida counties.

"There is still much uncertainty regarding the nature and extent of Zika virus transmission," said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA's biologic products center, in an agency release. "At this time, the recommendation for testing the entire blood supply will help ensure that safe blood is available for all individuals who might need transfusion."

Blood collection sites already test donations for HIV, hepatitis, West Nile virus and other blood-borne viruses.

FDA officials said Zika testing is already underway in Puerto Rico and parts of Florida, where "it has shown to be beneficial in identifying donations infected with Zika virus."

The FDA has authorized use of two experimental blood-screening tests for Zika, one made by Roche and another from Hologic Inc. Several testing sites are already voluntarily using the technology, including blood centers in Texas. The cost of adding Zika testing to the blood screening process is less than $10, according to officials at South Texas Blood and Tissue Center.

Since February, U.S. blood centers have been turning away people who have recently traveled to areas with Zika outbreaks, under a previous FDA directive.

Zika is spread primarily by mosquito bites, as well as sex. There have been cases of Zika transmission through blood transfusion in Brazil.

The FDA works with other federal agencies to set standards for screening, testing and handling blood donations.

Last month, blood centers in Miami and Fort Lauderdale had to halt donations until they could begin screening each unit of blood. The order followed now-confirmed reports of local Zika transmission in the Miami area -- the first in the continental U.S.

Puerto Rico suspended blood donations and imported blood products in March until the island began screening its blood.

Friday's announcement follows recent pressure from members of Congress urging the FDA to expand Zika screening.

"We must implement widespread universal screening now to prevent any further contamination of the blood supply before it occurs and to pre-empt a widespread shortfall in the blood supply," stated Reps. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, Patrick Murphy, D-Fla. and a half-dozen other House members, in a letter to the FDA earlier this month.

The Zika virus causes only a mild illness in most people, but scientists have confirmed that infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects.

The tropical mosquito that spreads Zika and other viruses is found in the southern U.S. While health officials have predicted that mosquitoes in the continental U.S. would begin spreading Zika this summer, they also have said they expect only isolated clusters of infections and not widespread outbreaks. So far, there have been about 40 cases of homegrown Zika in Florida.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[New Study Finds Zika Flourishes in the Vagina]]>Fri, 26 Aug 2016 04:13:25 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/081516+zika+mosquito.jpg

The vagina is a welcoming home for Zika. In a new study published today [Thursday], researchers at Yale University found that Zika reproduced in the vaginas of pregnant mice four to five days after infection and that the virus spread from the vagina to the fetal brain.

Studying Zika in mice is tricky. A mouse’s immune system fights off the infection, making the animal quite resistant to Zika.

When researchers want to study the infection in mice, they first tweak the animal’s immune system to make it more susceptible.

Click here to read more about this report from our media partners at The Dallas Morning News.



Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[No Confirmed Zika Cases Linked to Olympics: WHO]]>Thu, 25 Aug 2016 16:52:06 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Olympic-Rings-GettyImages-585531340.jpg

The U.N. health agency says reports from national authorities indicate no confirmed laboratory cases of the Zika virus in anyone associated with the Rio Olympics. 

The World Health Organization announced the findings Thursday in its weekly situation report on Zika.

A recent epidemic of the mosquito-borne virus, which first erupted in Brazil, has been linked to brain-related birth defects in newborns and other nervous system troubles in some adults. 

Before the Games, some medical experts expressed concerns the Games might cause the virus to spread faster than normal by drawing large numbers of foreign athletes and visitors who might carry it back home. The virus can also be spread through sex. 

Some Brazilian fans jeered U.S. athletes who made light of the risk or stayed home over fears about Zika.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Newborn Affected by Zika Stayed Infected for 2 Months ]]>Wed, 24 Aug 2016 19:07:58 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZikaBaby-AP_272141986039.jpg

Doctors said a Brazilian baby with brain damage caused by the Zika virus stayed infected for more than two months after his birth, NBC News reported. 

The baby already had brain damage from the virus, which can infect a growing fetus. But the virus continued to actively infect him after he was born, Danielle Oliveira of the University of Sao Paulo and colleagues wrote in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine. 

"When the infant was examined on day 54, he had no obvious illness or evidence of any immunocompromising condition," they wrote. An immune condition might explain a prolonged infection. The baby was developmentally delayed and had cerebral palsy. 

This suggests that newborns may still be at risk from the virus while their brains are growing and developing — another unpleasant surprise about the virus.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Zika Won't Hurt Tourism in Fla. ]]>Sat, 20 Aug 2016 09:49:51 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/082016+miami+zika+spraying.jpg

The discovery of Zika-carrying mosquitoes in South Florida certainly isn't ideal for tourism, but local officials and business leaders are confident the long-term impact on the tourism industry will be minor.

Transmission of the virus via mosquito has been confirmed in two sites in Miami-Dade County, but Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said in a news conference Friday he is confident in the city's efforts to combat it. City workers are trying to get rid of standing water and foliage that might attract the insects, while the county begins a fumigation program to kill the bugs.

"Between our efforts and the county's spraying efforts, the last thing I'd ever want to be on Miami Beach is a mosquito," Levine said.

Organizers for Art Basel Miami Beach and other upcoming events cautiously expressed confidence in the region's mosquito control efforts. Officials at the Americas Food and Beverage Show will add mosquito repellent to goody bags at the late September event at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

"We're taking extra precautions," said Yendi Alvarez, the show's media coordinator. "This wasn't even a thought last year. We put this in place once the news started getting crazy."

Gov. Rick Scott has directed Florida's health department to offer mosquito spraying and related services at no cost to Miami-Dade County's hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions. More than 15.5 million people made overnight visits to Miami and nearby beaches in 2015, with an impact of $24.4 billion, according to figures from the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Three vacuum trucks purchased to help Miami Beach fight rising sea levels have been used since the beginning of the year to drain water in low-lying areas where mosquitoes could breed, said Roy Coley, the city's infrastructure director.

The city also has been sending workers to fill potholes collecting water in alleys and fix leaky beach showers, in addition to applying pesticides to the area's many construction sites and flood-prone residential streets, Coley said.

Five cases of Zika have been connected to mosquitoes in Miami Beach, bringing the state's caseload to 36 infections not related to travel outside the U.S., Florida's governor and health department announced Friday.

South Beach has been identified as a second site of Zika transmission by mosquitoes on the U.S. mainland. Containment there will be difficult because high-rise buildings and strong winds make it impractical to spray the neighborhood from the air, officials said Friday.

The discovery prompted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to announce that it was expanding its travel warning for pregnant women to include the area known for nightclubs, pedestrian thoroughfares and beaches.

In pregnant women, a Zika infection can cause severe birth defects, including microcephaly.

The CDC previously warned pregnant women to avoid the Wynwood arts district in Miami. In its statement Friday, the agency said pregnant women may also want to consider postponing nonessential travel throughout Miami-Dade County if they're concerned about potential exposure to the virus.

Aerial spraying and door-to-door operations on the ground have cut mosquito populations in Wynwood by up to 90 percent, but Zika may be continuing as mosquitoes breed, said CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden.

"The mosquitoes are persistent and we won't know for a couple of weeks whether these aggressive measures have worked," Frieden said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bats to Battle Zika in Texas]]>Fri, 19 Aug 2016 13:27:16 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/NC_bathouses0819_1920x1080.jpgAs public concern about Zika continues, people are taking unusual precautions to prevent the disease. Many use bug spray and empty standing water, but now some people are keeping bat houses in their backyards, hoping that the bats will eat nearby mosquitoes. Reggie Regan of Texas makes bat houses, which are essentially small wooden boxes, and these days he is barely able to keep up with demand. "There is some hysteria. People are buying bat houses because of it," Regan said.

Photo Credit: WOAI]]>
<![CDATA[28th Zika Case Confirmed in Dallas County]]>Thu, 18 Aug 2016 16:41:06 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika+pensilvania+9+feb2.jpg

Another Dallas County resident has contracted the Zika virus while traveling, public health department officials say.

The patient, age 48, is the 28th Dallas County resident to contract the illness while traveling abroad; the latest case was contracted in Mexico.

After confirming the cases through a private lab, the cases were referred to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Other than the patient being a resident of DeSoto, no other health information will be released about the patient.

Still, no known Zika cases have been transmitted locally by mosquitoes, local health officials confirm -- all local cases have been imported with the exception of one case in Dallas County that is believed to have been spread by sexual contact.

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, a known aggressive daytime biter. Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week, though there can be profound impact to a developing fetus should the mother contract the virus.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.


This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Child Among Latest Zika Cases Confirmed in Dallas County]]>Tue, 16 Aug 2016 16:00:42 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika+pensilvania+9+feb2.jpg

Two more cases of Zika virus have been confirmed in Dallas County Tuesday, including a 50-year-old Grand Prairie resident and a 6-year-old Dallas resident, health officials say.

Dallas County Health and Human Services confirmed both cases were travel-related.

The child, officials said, contracted the virus during a recent trip to Guatemala; the 50-year-old contracted the case while traveling in the Dominican Republic.

The cases are the 26th and 27th Zika cases confirmed in Dallas County this year.

After confirming the cases through testing at the DCHHS lab, the cases were referred to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

No other health information will be released about the patients, as per usual, to protect their identities.

Still, no known Zika cases have been transmitted locally by mosquitoes, local health officials confirm -- all local cases have been imported with the exception of one case in Dallas County that is believed to have been spread by sexual contact.

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, a known aggressive daytime biter. Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week, though there can be profound impact to a developing fetus should the mother contract the virus.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.


This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Texas Resident's Zika Case Linked to Miami Travel]]>Mon, 15 Aug 2016 19:05:11 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/mosquitoes+swarming.jpg

Health officials say a Texas resident who recently traveled to an area of Miami where local Zika transmission occurred has tested positive for the virus.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said Monday that it's the first Texas case to be linked to travel within the continental U.S.

Health officials linked the case to Miami travel after investigating factors such as travel dates and when symptoms appeared.

The El Paso County resident sought testing after becoming ill. Health officials say it's that county's first case and no other evidence of the virus or local transmission has been found there.

Texas has reported more than 100 cases of Zika associated with travel to areas with active transmission. There haven't been any reported cases of Zika transmitted by mosquitoes in Texas.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

]]>
<![CDATA[Zika Proteins Research Underway]]>Fri, 12 Aug 2016 17:45:07 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZIKA17.jpgResearchers have discovered a key weapon to fight the Zika virus.]]><![CDATA[Texas Scientists Hunt For Zika Cure]]>Wed, 10 Aug 2016 00:08:09 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika+research+galveston.jpg

On Galveston Island, not far from the beaches that draw many tourists, a team of scientists is racing to find a solution to a most serious subject – the Zika virus.

They are working on two fronts – to find a vaccine to stop the disease from spreading, and a medicine to treat people already infected.

"Zika is spreading quickly and so we want to find solutions to the problem of Zika infection," said Dr. Shelton Bradrick at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

He and his colleagues have already identified about 20 drugs, already approved for other ailments, that potentially also could be used to treat Zika.

"We're hopeful but that doesn't guarantee anything," he said. "It's not going to pan out until it's tested by clinical scientists in humans."

The work is urgent.

And for some, it's personal.

"It's a very big deal," said researcher Rafael Campos. "I actually know people who have been affected by Zika."

In a laboratory tucked away in a building on campus, he's working on finding a medicine to treat the disease.

"There is a lot of pressure," he said. "We want to do the best we can."

Some of the scientists even work from home.

Just off campus, professors Shannan Rossi and her husband, Nikos Vasilakis, trap mosquitoes in their backyard to use in research.

They've been involved in trying to identify the exact kind of mosquitoes most likely to carry Zika and have made progress on that front.

And like their teammates, they are working overtime to help.

"If you say to a mother who's expecting her firstborn child and who's also been infected with Zika that there's nothing you can do for her, that's the kind of thing that keeps us up and keeps us going," Rossi said.

Back on campus, Dr. Pei-Yong Shi and his team recently cloned a strain of the Zika virus.

"This is the fun part of doing science," the Chinese-born researcher said. "The reward, the excitement, it's not anything else you can have. It was a great feeling."

Armed with the clone, they hope to come up with a vaccine.

One way, he said, was to make a medicine with part of the virus, but without the disease-causing elements.

Simply put, get the vaccine and you become immune to Zika, and don't get sick.

"With all the efforts around the world with different approaches … I'm quite optimistic," Shi said.

It is a global push.

"For this, we're throwing everything at the problem," Rossi said of her fellow scientists.

And with the work being done at UTMB, Galveston is right in the middle of it.

Researchers caution that finding any vaccine or treatment could be many months away. But they're no doubt a lot closer thanks to the work being done in this Texas resort town.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Houston-Area Infant Death Linked to Zika]]>Tue, 09 Aug 2016 17:48:38 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Anuncian_vacunas_contra_el_Zika.jpg

Texas health officials confirmed Tuesday that an infant who passed away shortly after birth in Harris County had microcephaly linked to the Zika virus.

The mother was infected with Zika while traveling in Latin America, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The child acquired the infection in the womb, officials said.

At least 99 cases of Zika have been reported in Texas, including two infants with microcephaly in Harris County. All Texas cases are related to travel in countries where Zika is prevalent, and no cases have been transmitted by mosquitoes in Texas.

DSHS is coordinating with officials in Harris County and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to follow Zika cases.

“Zika’s impact on unborn babies can be tragic, and our hearts are with this family,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, Texas Department of State Health Services commissioner. “Our central mission from the beginning has been to do everything we can to protect unborn babies from the devastating effects of Zika.”

The CDC has advised pregnant women not to travel to Zika-affected parts of Latin America and the Caribbean and the Wynwood neighborhood in Miami.

DSHS has been emphasizing precautions, specifically for travelers and pregnant women, through an ongoing public education campaign and via www.TexasZika.org.

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<![CDATA[Dallas County Plans Aggressive Attack on Zika Virus]]>Mon, 08 Aug 2016 23:53:20 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Mosquito+Spraying+03.jpg

Dallas County is planning an aggressive attack against the Zika virus if and when the virus is found to be spreading locally, transmitted by mosquitoes here in North Texas.

"Aerial spraying is going to be the most effective way when you start talking about mitigating the Zika virus," said Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.

Aerial spraying didn't begin in Miami until 15 people were found to have contracted the virus in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood.

Dallas County now plans to begin aerial spraying after the second local case, concerned ground spraying alone won't be enough to kill all the mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus.

"If you're looking at two or more cases, we strongly want to look at aerial spraying," Thompson said. "Of course we have the ground activity in terms of going out with the foggers."

"Aerial spraying is going to be the quick knockdown," Thompson added.

Investigators would begin going door-to-door, collecting urine samples to be tested for the virus immediately after the first case is confirmed.

"We can do the testing here in our lab or in other labs in Dallas County," Thompson said. "The challenge is going to be going door-to-door and collecting those specimens and getting them tested."

Health departments across Texas are already working together to fight the Zika virus.

"Your federal and state resources may not be as great as we think they are, if there is an outbreak throughout the southern part of the United States," Thompson said.

]]>
<![CDATA[Texas Seeks Federal Funds to Fight Zika Virus]]>Sat, 06 Aug 2016 00:42:13 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-585211752.jpgGov. Greg Abbott is asking the president for money to help fight the Zika virus. Florida continues to battle more than a dozen homegrown cases of the virus, and health experts warn Texas could be next.

Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Miami's Mayor Warns North Texans to Prepare for Local Zika]]>Wed, 03 Aug 2016 22:51:16 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/miami+mayor+regalado.jpgMiami's mayor is warning North Texans to be prepared for locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus to appear close to home.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Miami Mayor Warns North Texas About Local Zika Cases]]>Thu, 04 Aug 2016 16:31:34 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/miami+mayor+regalado.jpg

Miami's mayor is warning North Texans to be prepared for locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus to appear close to home.

"Be proactive. Start cleaning your yards, start informing the people," Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado warned. "But do not create panic and do not allow the CDC to issue a ban to travel to Dallas."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising pregnant women to avoid traveling to Miami's Wynwood neighborhood, where at least 14 cases of home-grown Zika have been reported.

Ground crews have been spraying the affected neighborhood all week, and aerial spraying took place Thursday morning over a 10 mile square mile area of Miami.

"I haven’t seen any mosquitoes for about a week and I’m outside every day," said Wynwood resident Joanna Pena. “I haven’t even been bit."

“Our concern more is what they’re spraying to kill the Zika, said another resident Frank Hernandez. "We’ve read that that can make people sick and I was actually sick about two days ago."

Florida’s Governor toured the Wynwood neighborhood Thursday morning, encouraging people other than pregnant women to visit the local businesses.

“I think people are doing the right thing," Governor Rick Scott said. "They’re getting rid of standing water. They’re using bug repellent, but we’re doing testing. We’re doing everything we can."  

Leading health experts in Texas are watching the developments in Miami.

“I don’t see how they think they can contain it there,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “There’s people leaving that Wynwood neighborhood every day with Zika virus in their bloodstream. So, I think we have to consider the whole Miami area at risk right now. I think the overwhelming emphasis needs to be on protecting pregnant women in Texas, Louisiana and Florida.

The response to a local outbreak in Texas would be similar, with various government agencies working together to agree on the best course of action.

“Aerial spraying would be for us like it was in Miami, not the first tool that we would pick up, said Dr. John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

“Right now, for everybody here in Texas, I would love for them to start wearing DEET like they’re wearing perfume," Hellerstedt said.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Scammers, Bug Spray Companies Capitalizing on Zika Fears]]>Wed, 03 Aug 2016 19:44:56 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-585211752.jpg

Worried you might catch the Zika virus? Scammers and bug spray companies are counting on it.

Marketers know this is the time to pounce: The summer Olympics are about to start in Brazil, where the recent Zika epidemic started, and 14 mosquito-borne cases of Zika were identified recently in the Miami area, the first in the U.S. So companies and entrepreneurs are capitalizing on Zika fears wherever mosquitoes buzz, hawking questionable products like anti-Zika wristbands and promoting all manner of mosquito repellents for people and pets.

"From a marketing point of view, it's a golden opportunity," said Jonathan Day, a University of Florida mosquito expert and researcher.

In a first for a bugspray, Off! became the official insect repellent supplier for an Olympic Games, and agreed to send 115,000 sprays, spritzers and towelettes to the Rio Olympics. Rival Cutter in June signed on to sponsor the U.S. men's and women's national soccer teams.

Both companies are likely to benefit from Zika fears far beyond supplying athletes and fans in Brazil. Pharmacies in New York City, for example, have Off! displays warning consumers to "Repel the mosquitoes that may carry the Zika virus." The tropical mosquito responsible for the Zika epidemic, called Aedes aegypti, is not found in New York, though state health officials still recommend that people use bug spray.

Zika is usually spread when the mosquito picks it up by biting an infected person and bites someone else. It is worrying disease, of course, especially for pregnant women. Its symptoms are often so mild that most people don't know they have it, but it has been found to cause severe birth defects if women are infected while pregnant.

Health officials say people in Zika-affected areas should take steps to avoid getting or spreading the disease by wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts and using insect repellent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specifically mentions brands like Off! and Cutter in its recommendations .

Zika can also be transmitted by sex, so the CDC recommends using condoms to prevent spreading the virus if one partner is infected, or might be.

In a marketer's hand, that kind of recommendation turns a condom into a Zika-fighting device. Australia's Ansell Ltd. is supplying that country's Olympic team with "anti-Zika condoms" lubricated with an antiviral gel. But that gel has never been tested outside a laboratory, and experts say any condom will do the job.

Some enterprising marketers are trying to make a few dollars by rebranding products as Zika fighters.

Among them is a Louisiana exterminator who is hawking a $1,678 outdoor mosquito misting system as the "Zika Cube." Its maker, Katy, Texas-based Pynamite Mosquito Misting Systems, said it didn't authorize sales of its product under that name and will order the man to stop, though Pynamite's website does say "effective mosquito control in your yard is the best way to prevent Zika and other mosquito-related diseases."

A website called "anti-zika.com" offers $6 "anti-zika" repellent with a "formula specifically designed to combat the Zika virus." Its website says the stuff has similar ingredients to mainstream brands, but offers no details about its "specifically designed" formula. The company hasn't responded to a request for comment.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says his office has sent letters to seven companies, telling them to stop marketing products as "Zika-preventive" or "Zika-protective."

While some companies are using Zika worries to goose sales of products that could prevent mosquito bites, others are claiming benefits far beyond what regulators have verified.

Officials are warning consumers away from ultrasound bug zappers, $20 insecticide-containing wrist and ankle bands such as "Mosquitno," and "Spotz," Citronella-infused stickers that adhere to clothing and supposedly repel mosquitoes for three days. The Federal Trade Commission this spring fined one wristband maker $300,000 for falsely claiming its bands create a five-foot mosquito barrier protecting wearers for days.

Experts say to stick with what works, like products with DEET. Research by Day, the University of Florida entomologist, found that while repellents approved by federal agencies that contain citronella, lemon eucalyptus oil and other herbal extracts provide some protection, it can last from just a few minutes to an hour or so. In contrast, he found products containing 23.8 percent DEET, such as Off! Deep Woods, can protect against mosquito bites for 3 to 6 hours.

And that's what most people are buying, whether they are near Zika-carrying mosquitoes or not: Off! maker SC Johnson in February ramped up to 24-hour, 7-day a week production, the family-owned company says.

Spectrum Brands Inc. said retailers have seen sales double over last year's for its repellent brands, Cutter and Repel. It's also boosted production, and started mentioning Zika on its repellent cans.

"We don't want to scare consumers," brand manager Ashley Henderson says. "We want to empower them."

The maker of Mosquito Bits and Mosquito Dunks, tablets containing bacteria that the company says kill mosquito larvae in water, said it's having one of its best sales years ever. Demand has spiked in Texas and across the Southwest -- and in less-than-tropical locations, too.

"We're getting calls from as far north as Canada," said company vice president Zach Cohen.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dallas County Ready As It Can Be for Zika Virus Threat]]>Tue, 02 Aug 2016 22:37:23 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/clay+jenkins+zika.jpg

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says the county is more prepared than most places in the country to deal with the threat of Zika because Ebola helped prepare Dallas County for it.

On Tuesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced $16 million in funding to states and territories to fight Zika. Texas is one of four states to get $720,000.

"Everything we're learning about Zika, as we go along, is bad news," Jenkins warned. "There's a whole lot about the disease we don't know." 

Jenkins said Dallas County has identified and tested more than 500 people for Zika. As of Tuesday night, 22 people in the county tested positive for the virus. Most got it by traveling to a Zika-infected area. One got the virus through sexual contact.

Jenkins asked community members not to travel to areas with Zika.

"I'm asking those who will listen," Jenkins said. "Don't go."

"I've already canceled plenty of babymoons for my pregnant patients," said Dr. Sheila Chhutani, an OB/GYN at Texas Health Dallas. "For pregnant patients, I tell them not to go. For women looking to be pregnant in the near future, I tell them not to go." 

Both Jenkins and Chhutani said everyone has to do his or her part to prevent the spread of Zika. 

"If it happens here, if it happens anywhere, and it will happen somewhere in the continental United States," Jenkins said. "It's going to be a very serious thing." 

"It reminds me a little of Ebola," Chhutani said. "It's scary."

The Ebola crisis helped put resources and systems in place in Dallas County to deal with a pandemic like Zika.

"I think if everybody does their part," said Chhutani, "we can definitely fight this together." 



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[22nd Zika Case Confirmed in Dallas County]]>Mon, 01 Aug 2016 16:17:38 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika+pensilvania+9+feb2.jpg

Another Dallas County resident has contracted the Zika virus while traveling, public health department officials say.

The patient, age 28, is the 22nd to contract the illness in Dallas County. The patient contracted the virus while traveling in Mexico.

After confirming the cases through a private lab, the cases were referred to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

No other health information will be released about the patients, as per usual, to protect their identities.

Still, no known Zika cases have been transmitted locally by mosquitoes, local health officials confirm -- all local cases have been imported with the exception of one case in Dallas County that is believed to have been spread by sexual contact.

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, a known aggressive daytime biter. Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week, though there can be profound impact to a developing fetus should the mother contract the virus.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.


This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[North Texas Keeps Close Eye on Florida Zika Situation]]>Fri, 29 Jul 2016 22:44:27 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZIKA-FOTO.jpg

Health officials and experts in North Texas are working on their plans to fight the Zika virus as the illness takes a new turn in Florida.

On Friday, Florida health leaders said that four cases of Zika were likely spread by mosquito; the first cases in the United States not linked to international travel.

Additionally, blood banks in Miami-Dade and Broward counties were asked by the Food and Drug Administration to suspend collections until donations can be screened for the virus.

Locally, officials at Carter BloodCare said they have been monitoring the virus for some time and are watching the current situation closely as their governing body decides how it will effect operations.

“Independent community blood centers have been talking about this for many months,” said Carter Public Information Officer Linda Goelzer.

For now the effects will just be on the screening side there.

Goelzer said they’ve been asking donors for some time to list areas they’ve traveled to outside of the country and that, now, folks giving blood will likely be asked about travel to the effected counties in Florida, as well.

She said the experimental test for Zika in blood is an option for the area, as well, and will be brought into the situation as needed, though it’s not something used regularly at this point.

It is still being determined if any other new directives will come forward.

Goelzer stressed though, at this point, they are still taking donations in North Texas, and, in fact, they encourage people to come and donate to the cause.

“We have contingency plans in place,” she said. "We are going to have blood for the area if needed, and this is just one of those times we just remind donors that you cannot ever anticipate what will happen.”

Juan Rodriguez, with the Denton County Health Department, said Friday that they did expect to see the illness transmitted by mosquitoes eventually and that now he and other epidemiologists will be watching closely how it pans out and what works and does not work in the response.

Because there seems to be a general feeling among experts that it’s not a matter of if it shows up in North Texas mosquitoes, but when.

"If you're traveling to those endemic countries, which you should not, where there is a Zika outbreak, make sure you protect yourself," said Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services. "When you arrive back in the United States, in Dallas County, make sure that you check in with your primary physician."

Dr. James Kennedy, a biologist and mosquito expert at the University of North Texas, said he believes the further spread into the state is inevitable and expects it will first be seen in the Houston area or other warmer, southern parts of Texas.

"I mean, it's another avenue of entry into Texas," said Kennedy.

He said state health leaders, with whom he works closely on Denton's West Nile virus testing, are already testing samples of mosquitoes state-wide for Zika as well.

He hopes Florida's situation will in fact serve as a learning experience here.

"It's kind of like West Nile virus when it first came across the country. We really didn't know what was happening, and we learned, and I think the same thing with the Zika virus,” he said.

Experts encourage everyone to continue practicing mosquito prevention to protect from the illness spreading.

Kennedy adds one more step in the case of Zika though. He said that the mosquitoes that carry Zika are not only daytime biters, but they also are known to lay eggs just outside of pooled water, so he recommends that after draining standing water people also check the edges of the container and clean out any mosquito eggs that may have been outside of the pool.

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<![CDATA[20th Zika Case Confirmed in Dallas County]]>Mon, 25 Jul 2016 16:15:12 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika+pensilvania+9+feb2.jpg

Two more people have been diagnosed with Zika virus in Dallas County, public health department officials say.

The patients, ages 23 and 26, are the 19th and 20th to contract the illness in Dallas County. The 23-year-old patient contracted the virus in the British Virgin Islands; the 26-year-old contracted the illness in Jamaica.

After confirming the cases through the Dallas County Health and Human Services lab, the cases were referred to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

No other health information will be released about the patients, as per usual, to protect their identities.

Still, no known Zika cases have been transmitted locally by mosquitoes, local health officials confirm -- all local cases have been imported with the exception of one case in Dallas County that is believed to have been spread by sexual contact.

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, a known aggressive daytime biter. Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week, though there can be profound impact to a developing fetus should the mother contract the virus.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.


This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Two More Cases of Zika Confirmed in Dallas County]]>Thu, 21 Jul 2016 13:37:14 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Mosquito-GettyImages-513621730.jpg

Two more people have been diagnosed with Zika virus in Dallas County, public health department officials say.

The patients, ages 37 and 38, are the 17th and 18th to contract the illness in Dallas County. Both patients acquired the virus while traveling in Mexico.

After confirming the cases through the Dallas County Health and Human Services lab, the cases were referred to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

No other health information will be released about the patient, as per usual, to protect his or her identity.

Still, no known Zika cases have been transmitted locally by mosquitoes, local health officials confirm -- all local cases have been imported with the exception of one case in Dallas County that is believed to have been spread by sexual contact.

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, a known aggressive daytime biter. Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week, though there can be profound impact to a developing fetus should the mother contract the virus.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.



Photo Credit: LatinContent/Getty Images
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Dallas County Confirms 16th Case of Zika Virus]]>Wed, 20 Jul 2016 16:40:50 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Mosquito-GettyImages-513621730.jpg

A 16th person has been diagnosed with Zika virus in Dallas County, public health department officials say.

The 49-year-old patient contracted the illness while traveling in Mexico.

After confirming the case through a private laboratory, Dallas County Health and Human Services referred the case to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

No other health information will be released about the patient, as per usual, to protect his or her identity.

Still, no known Zika cases have been transmitted locally by mosquitoes, local health officials confirm -- all local cases have been imported with the exception of one case in Dallas County that is believed to have been spread by sexual contact.

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, a known aggressive daytime biter. Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week, though there can be profound impact to a developing fetus should the mother contract the virus.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.



Photo Credit: LatinContent/Getty Images
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Lewisville Spraying After 3rd Case of Zika Hits Denton Co.]]>Tue, 19 Jul 2016 12:33:14 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Mosquito-GettyImages-513621730.jpg

The city of Lewisville will spray for mosquitoes after a 3rd person has been diagnosed with Zika virus in Denton County, county public health department officials say.

The Denton County Public Health Department did not provide any identifying information about patient other than that the person resides in Lewisville and that the case was contracted during a recent visit to Nicaragua.

"This third case shows on ongoing risk when traveling abroad," said Dr. Matt Richardson, Director of Public Health. "Taking precautions to avoid mosquito bites remains very important. Pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant should consider delaying travel to affected countries with active Zika transmission."

Still, no known Zika cases have been transmitted locally by mosquitoes, local health officials confirm -- all local cases have been imported with the exception of one case in Dallas County that is believed to have been spread by sexual contact.

"In an abundance of caution, and an attempt to combat Aedes mosquitos, crews from Vector Disease Control International, a private company hired by the City of Lewisville, will conduct mosquito spraying/fogging in the areas closely surrounding the infected resident's house. This spraying/fogging will be conducted using backpack sprayers and, weather permitting, will happen Thursday, July 21, 6-8 p.m."

The case is the first for the city of Lewisville.

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, a known aggressive daytime biter. Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week, though there can be profound impact to a developing fetus should the mother contract the virus.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.



Photo Credit: LatinContent/Getty Images
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Mysterious Zika Spread Investigated]]>Tue, 19 Jul 2016 08:40:40 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/NC_zika0718_1920x1080.jpgElderly Utah man who died with the Zika virus has somehow infected another person. There was no sexual contact and also no evidence the mosquitoes that transmit Zika are in Utah.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Dallas County Confirms 15th Case of Zika Virus]]>Thu, 14 Jul 2016 15:20:31 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Mosquito-GettyImages-513621730.jpg

A 15th person has been diagnosed with Zika virus in Dallas County, public health department officials say.

The 40-year-old patient contracted the illness while traveling in Puerto Rico.

After confirming the case through a private laboratory, Dallas County Health and Human Services referred the case to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

No other health information will be released about the patient, as per usual, to protect his or her identity.

Still, no known Zika cases have been transmitted locally by mosquitoes, local health officials confirm -- all local cases have been imported with the exception of one case in Dallas County that is believed to have been spread by sexual contact.

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, a known aggressive daytime biter. Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week, though there can be profound impact to a developing fetus should the mother contract the virus.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.



Photo Credit: LatinContent/Getty Images
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Baby Born in Texas With Microcephaly Linked to Zika]]>Thu, 14 Jul 2016 04:58:17 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Mosquito-GettyImages-513621730.jpg

A baby recently born with microcephaly in Harris County is confirmed to have had a past Zika virus infection, the Texas Department of State Health Services says.

Texas' DSHS said the child's mother was likely infected in Latin America and that the baby acquired the infection in the womb.

“It’s heartbreaking. This underscores the damage Zika can have on unborn babies,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, Texas Department of State Health Services commissioner. “Our state’s work against Zika has never been more vital.”

Neither the baby nor mother are infectious, the DSHS said, and there is no additional risk in Texas.

The microcephaly case is the first Zika-related case in Texas, DSHS confirmed.

The DSHS said Texas has logged 59 cases of Zika virus disease, including three confirmed cases of Zika in pregnant women. All are related to travel abroad to areas with active Zika transmission. There have been no reported cases of Zika virus transmitted by mosquitoes in Texas; one case in Dallas is confirmed to have been transmitted sexually.

"With its link to microcephaly, Zika poses a serious threat to unborn children. DSHS is working to educate women and families about how to protect themselves through its Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and via healthcare providers," DSHS said in a news release. "DSHS is working closely with other state agencies to emphasize precaution information to their specific audiences, such as through schools, daycares and women’s health programs.

The state's health department said they've made significant progress delaying the impact of Zika on the state and that while local transmission remains likely it is not expected to be widespread.

"Small pockets of cases in limited clusters are more likely. This assessment is based on the state’s past experience with dengue, a similar virus spread by the same mosquitoes, and on the prevalent use of window screens, air conditioning, insect repellent and other mosquito control efforts in Texas," the DSHS said.

“Our central goal is protecting unborn babies from Zika,” said Dr. Hellerstedt. “We are on alert for local transmission and will act fast to identify actual risk and continue to do everything we can to protect Texans.”

For more information about Zika prevention for Texas go to www.TexasZika.org.



Photo Credit: LatinContent/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Tarrant County Confirms Eighth Case of Zika Virus]]>Wed, 06 Jul 2016 11:24:19 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Mosquito-GettyImages-513621730.jpg

An eighth person has been diagnosed with Zika virus in Tarrant County, public health department officials say.

The patient contracted the illness while traveling in Honduras. The case is the second known to have been imported from Honduras, a country known to have local transmission of the disease, TCPH officials said in a statement Wednesday.

The first case from Honduras was reported last week.

A private laboratory received, tested and confirmed the latest finding, county health officials said.

TCPH said no other health information will be released about the patient, as per usual, to protect his or her identity.

Still, no known Zika cases have been transmitted locally by mosquitoes, local health officials confirm -- all local cases have been imported with the exception of one case in Dallas County that is believed to have been spread by sexual contact.

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, a known aggressive daytime biter. Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week, though there can be profound impact to a developing fetus should the mother contract the virus.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.

TCPH's Zika Hotline at 817-248-6299 is available to help answer any questions residents may have about this disease. For more information on Zika virus and for other useful tips, click here.



Photo Credit: LatinContent/Getty Images
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Dallas County Confirms 12th Case of Zika Virus]]>Wed, 06 Jul 2016 05:19:13 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Mosquito-GettyImages-513621730.jpg

A 12th person has been diagnosed with Zika virus in Dallas County, public health department officials say.

The 55-year-old patient contracted the illness while traveling in Jamaica.

After confirming the case through a private laboratory, Dallas County Health and Human Services referred the case to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

No other health information will be released about the patient, as per usual, to protect his or her identity.

Still, no known Zika cases have been transmitted locally by mosquitoes, local health officials confirm -- all local cases have been imported with the exception of one case in Dallas County that is believed to have been spread by sexual contact.

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, a known aggressive daytime biter. Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week, though there can be profound impact to a developing fetus should the mother contract the virus.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.



Photo Credit: LatinContent/Getty Images
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Texas Hosts Zika Summit; CDC Sends $36M to Fight Virus]]>Fri, 01 Jul 2016 16:41:58 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Puerto-Rico-AP_71939457309.jpg

In a continuing effort to delay local Zika transmission by mosquitoes, Texas is convening a statewide Zika summit of local leaders to create response plans and conduct drills. Meanwhile, the CDC is sending Texas more than $35 million in emergency preparedness funds to combat the spread of the virus.

Texas' daylong workshop, formally called the State of Texas Active Response to Zika (STARZ) Conference, will be Wednesday, July 6, at the McAllen Convention Center.

"It's a chance for us to sit down together to coordinate our plans in detail and exercise our actions before Zika is really here," said Dr. John Hellerstedt, Texas Department of State Health Services commissioner. "We expect to see some level of local transmission in the state, and Texas is at the forefront and ready."

In a statement released to the media, organizers said "the central element of the event will be two tabletop exercises in which leaders walk through and discuss how they would handle both the first confirmed local transmission of Zika in their jurisdictions and also sustained local transmission."

Officials do expect local transmission of the virus to take place in Texas at some point, though they do not expect that transmission to be widespread -- small pockets in limited clusters are more likely due to the state's large geographic area, the prevalant use of window screens, air conditioning and insect repellent.

Texas has boosted its Zika public outreach campaign by $500,000, making it a $2.5 million campaign that will continue through the summer and will now include grassroots outreach in addition to educational materials, advertising, radio and news media. The website www.TexasZika.org launched in February and continues to be the anchor for the campaign and the source of official Texas public health information about Zika. More than 50,000 people visited the site in June.

To date, Texas has had 50 cases of Zika virus disease, including one confirmed case of Zika in a pregnant woman. All are related to travel abroad to areas with active Zika transmission with the exception of one case in Dallas that was believed to have been transmitted sexually. In addition, there have been 28 pregnant Texas residents with laboratory evidence of Zika infection but did not meet the case definition.

With its link to microcephaly, Zika poses a serious threat to unborn children. DSHS is working to educate women and families about how to protect themselves through its Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and via healthcare providers. The Texas WIC program is seeking to distribute Zika prevention materials, including mosquito repellent, through its breastfeeding promotion kits. DSHS is working closely with other state agencies to emphasize precaution information to their specific audiences, such as schools, daycares and women's health programs.

"With the central goal of protecting unborn babies from Zika, we're doing everything we can to make sure everyone knows how to prevent it," said Dr. Hellerstedt. "If local transmission is suspected, our response will be fast and geared toward identifying actual risk and protecting Texans."

With the upcoming holiday weekend and other summer activities, state health officials urge everyone to follow precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites:

The Zika Virus Preparedness and Response Plan has been posted to www.TexasZika.org under the Zika Response tab and describes what actions DSHS will take to successfully respond to Zika.

CDC Sends Texas More Than $35 Million for Zika Fight

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded $25 million in funding to states, cities, and territories to support efforts to protect Americans from Zika virus infection and associated illnesses.

The CDC gave Texas $1.5 million for public health preparedness and response (PHPR) and another $34 million for public health emergency preparedness (PHEP). According to the CDC, PHEP grants are given to "public health departments across the nation to upgrade their ability to effectively respond to a range of public health threats, including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological events."

"These CDC funds will enable states and territories to strengthen their Zika preparedness and response plans," said Stephen C. Redd, M.D. (RADM, USPHS), director of CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response. "Although the continental United States has not yet seen local transmission of the Zika virus, mosquito season is here, and states must continue to both work to prevent transmission and prepare for their first local case."

The CDC said a total of $25 million in fiscal year 2016 preparedness and response funding has been awarded to 53 state, city, and territorial health departments in areas at risk for outbreaks of Zika.‎ The funding is effective July 1 and can be used through June 2017. All jurisdictions will have the funds by next week and selection of recipients was based on risk of local transmission and population.

In addition to the Zika-specific funding, the CDC said they've awarded $567.5 million in cooperative agreements to 62 public health departments across the country to improve and sustain emergency preparedness of state and local public health systems. Individual departments will receive funds ranging from $320,000 to $38 million. The Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) cooperative agreement funding supports all-hazards preparedness and is a critical source of funding and support for the nation's public health system. The PHEP program provides resources annually that are needed to ensure that local communities can respond effectively to infectious disease outbreaks, natural disasters, or chemical, biological, or radiological nuclear events.

The Obama Administration continues to press Congress for $1.9 billion its public health experts identified as necessary to combat Zika and protect the homeland. While the PHEP grants are an important tool to help communities prepare for and respond to public health emergencies, to expand mosquito control capabilities and develop a Zika vaccine and diagnostics, among other priorities, it requires resources beyond existing appropriations.



Photo Credit: ap
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<![CDATA[Health Officials Preparing for Locally Transmitted Zika]]>Wed, 29 Jun 2016 11:50:28 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZIKA_GettyImages-537671534.jpg

The poorest parts of Houston remind Dr. Peter Hotez of some of the neighborhoods in Latin America hardest hit by Zika.

Broken window screens. Limited air conditioning. Trash piles that seem to re-appear even after they're cleaned up.

On a hot, humid day this month, Hotez pointed at one pile that included old tires and a smashed-in television with water pooling inside. It was a textbook habitat for the mosquitoes that carry and transmit the Zika virus, and one example of the challenge facing public health officials.

"I'm showing you Zika heaven," said Hotez, the tropical medicine dean at Baylor College of Medicine.

Hotez and other tropical disease specialists are most concerned about impoverished urban areas and along the Gulf Coast, where the numbers of the mosquito that spreads Zika are expected to spike.

Texas already has dealt with dengue fever, transmitted by the same mosquito.

Zika causes only a mild and brief illness, at worst, in most people. But it can cause fetal death and severe brain defects in the children of women infected during pregnancy.

So far, Texas officials have reported 48 people infected with Zika, all associated with travel. In one case, the virus was sexually transmitted by someone who had been infected abroad.

Public health officials have spent months preparing for what they are certain will be at least some locally transmitted cases. "It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when," said Dr. Umair Shah, the executive director of the Harris County public health department.

Florida and other states in the South where the Aedis aegypti mosquito is present also are taking steps to prepare. In Florida, for example, Gov. Rick Scott used his emergency powers last week to authorize spending up to $26.2 million for Zika.

His action comes as Congress remains stalemated on President Barack Obama's $1.9 billion proposal to fight the virus. A scaled-back $1.1 billion Republican-drafted measure was blocked in the Senate on Tuesday by Democrats opposed to its denial of new funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in Puerto Rico, where there already are more than 1,800 locally acquired cases, and to easing rules on pesticide spraying.

In Texas, major cities have sophisticated mosquito screening programs and years of dealing with other mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue and West Nile virus. But local authorities in most of the state have limited or no mosquito surveillance. The mosquitoes they do capture are typically sent to outside labs, and getting results can take weeks.

The smallest counties often have a single person driving around conducting surveillance -- "Chuck in a truck," Hotez calls it.

The state health department has spent more than $400,000 since the start of the year to expand its lab capacity and to buy mosquito traps. It also launched a $2 million Zika awareness campaign.

Shah said there are cuts that can be made, "but there comes a point where you stretch people too much."

In Harris County, which encompasses Houston and is the third-most populous county in the U.S., officials aren't waiting for the federal government. They purchased their own testing machines and have retrofitted two labs to run tests only for Zika to get results faster.

Mosquito traps are set out on lawns and inside sewers in more than 250 designated areas. Thus far, no mosquitoes have tested positive for Zika.

If one does, the county will send out three-person investigative teams and use staff from other agencies and volunteers to clear any containers with water and other possible mosquito breeding grounds.

Other counties don't have the same capacity.

Hidalgo County, which covers McAllen and poor areas along the border with Mexico, is using 12 traps to collect mosquitoes for testing, county health director Eduardo Olivarez said. Officials are also trying to get residents to clean up trash and install window and door screens.

He is stymied by the problem of old tires collecting across the county, apparently on their way to and from Mexico.

The county has several "colonias," settlements with recent immigrants that often lack running water or basic infrastructure. Still, Olivarez says he's not expecting large Zika outbreaks because even the poorest parts of his county are less congested and have more air conditioning.

"Do we have poor areas? Can we look at improving our areas? Definitely," Olivarez said. "But I get people who get dengue and West Nile, and they live in air-conditioned homes."

Against the backdrop of the preparations are memories of what happened two years ago, when Texas was caught unprepared when a Liberian man arrived in Dallas carrying the Ebola virus. It wasn't until two weeks later that Texas announced a state task force of Ebola experts and agency leaders, and designated a hospital to treat more patients.

This time, a 31-member Zika task force is already in place. The state says it's better prepared to coordinate with doctors, county health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Ebola was totally unexpected," said Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services. "No state thought it would be first and we didn't have the benefit of prior warning or having an established plan with time to practice.

"With Zika, we have been actively working on delaying or preventing it before it's really here," she said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Getty Images ]]>
<![CDATA[Texas Prepares for Zika]]>Tue, 28 Jun 2016 16:38:18 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika+Funding+062816.jpgThe Dallas Morning News' Sabriya Rice talks about Texas' plans to deal with the Zika virus after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asked for $10 million to help the state prepare.]]><![CDATA[Tarrant County Confirms Seventh Case of Zika Virus]]>Tue, 28 Jun 2016 19:33:40 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Mosquito-GettyImages-513621730.jpg

A seventh person has been diagnosed with Zika virus in Tarrant County, public health department officials say.

The patient contracted the illness while traveling in Honduras. While the case is the first known to have been imported from Honduras, the country is an area known to have local transmission of the disease, TCPH officials said in a statement Tuesday.

A private laboratory received, tested and confirmed the finding, county health officials said.

TCPH said no other health information will be released about the patient, as per usual, to protect his or her identity.

Still, no known Zika cases have been transmitted locally by mosquitoes, local health officials confirm -- all local cases have been imported with the exception of one case in Dallas County that is believed to have been spread by sexual contact.

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, a known aggressive daytime biter. Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week, though there can be profound impact to a developing fetus should the mother contract the virus.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.

TCPH's Zika Hotline at 817-248-6299 is available to help answer any questions residents may have about this disease. For more information on Zika virus and for other useful tips, click here.



Photo Credit: LatinContent/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Possible Vaccine Could Help Fight Zika Cases]]>Tue, 21 Jun 2016 23:17:37 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZikaMosquitoes-AP_16127497121865.jpgA vaccine could be within reach that could help fight the Zika virus. Dr. Seema Yasmin, medical expert at The Dallas Morning News, explains.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[New Dallas County Zika Cases Worry Pregnant Women]]>Tue, 21 Jun 2016 19:17:00 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/178*120/Zika.png

News about 10 pregnant women in Dallas County who preliminary tested positive for the Zika virus has many North Texas families concerned.

Pregnant women are calling their doctors and looking for guidance.

"Those are issues we are facing in our office these days and phone calls that we're receiving," said Dr. Ashley Zink, a maternal fetal medicine specialist. "The recommendations are evolving."

Veronica Riojas had a routine visit with her doctor at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano on Tuesday. Her baby is due next week.

"I had a mosquito bite and I showed it to my doctor. Thankfully, he reassured me it was OK," said Riojas. "I asked him three or four times."

Riojas postponed a trip to Mexico and has taken extra precautions.

"My dad got a big fog spray and did my whole backyard. We don't have any standing water. We got rid of our fountains," Riojas said. "I'm not outside as much. I have bug spray and I don't go anywhere."

Dr. Richard Kaye will deliver Riojas' baby.

"We're in Texas in the summer. It has been raining here. People are going to get bites. Until we get mosquitoes here with the Zika virus, they (pregnant women) should just consider those bites," said Kaye. "The primary question I get relates to travel, and I've had patients with travel plans to go to Mexico. Some have canceled and some have not."

"It's a risk you can't recover from. There's not treatment for it. It is too high of a risk to take. Don't go," Kaye added.

]]>
<![CDATA[Doctors Field Questions About Zika Virus]]>Tue, 21 Jun 2016 17:44:51 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/178*120/Zika.pngNorth Texas doctors have been inundated with questions about Zika virus, and they are trying to calm fears among women concerned about Zika and pregnancy.]]><![CDATA[Tarrant County Confirms Sixth Case of Zika Virus]]>Tue, 21 Jun 2016 14:03:28 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Mosquito-GettyImages-513621730.jpg

A sixth person has been diagnosed with Zika virus in Tarrant County Public Health Department officials say.

The patient contracted the illness while traveling in the Dominican Republic, making it the first case imported from the DR, TCPH officials said in a statement.

The tests were confirmed at the Tarrant County Public Health's North Texas Regional Laboratory.

No known Zika cases have been transmitted locally by mosquitos, local health officials confirm.

TCPH said Friday no other health information will be released about the patient, to protect his or her identity.

Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.



Photo Credit: LatinContent/Getty Images
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[10 Pregnant Women Test Positive for Zika in Dallas Co.]]>Tue, 21 Jun 2016 22:56:17 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZikaMosquitoes-AP_16127497121865.jpg

Ten pregnant women in Dallas County have preliminary tested positive for the Zika virus, the county health director said during a meeting Tuesday with the commissioner's court.

Dallas County Health and Human Services Directory Zachary Thompson said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends waiting until the women give birth to confirm the diagnosis by testing both the mother and her child.

Thompson told the Dallas County Commissioner's Court Tuesday morning that the women all contracted the virus while traveling internationally and that none of the infections were spread locally.

To date, no Zika-infected mosquitoes have been found in Dallas County.

Mosquitoes in North Texas could become carriers if they bite a Zika infected person.

Dr. Seema Yasmin, public health reporter for The Dallas Morning News, tweeted the risk of local outbreaks could increase as the number of people with the infection rises and as conditions improve for mosquitoes to breed.

A total of nine human cases of Zika had been previously confirmed in Dallas County this year. Those nine people either visited foreign countries or had sexual contact with a person who traveled out of the United States. The nine patients have fully recovered from the virus, Thompson said.

To avoid mosquito bites, officials urge everyone to use bug spray around the clock this mosquito season and get rid of standing water where mosquitoes may breed.



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[TX Lawmakers Pen Letter to CDC, Kerry About Zika]]>Mon, 20 Jun 2016 19:27:15 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/TLMD-zancudo-mosquito-zancudo-Zika-EFE-11764687w.jpg

The Texas lawmakers penned a letter about the Zika virus to both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday.

Just six weeks before thousands of Americans head to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics, they’re asking for stronger travel warnings when it comes to Zika.

Letter to CDC and Sec. of State John Kerry

 

Burgess has been outspoken for months, he even appeared on Lone Star Politics and said if asked for advice, he would say do not go to the Olympics.

Burgess and Cornyn are concerned that people visiting the CDC’s travel alert page can’t easily find information about Zika.

Burgess also said he believes Zika should have a Level 3 designation when it comes to travel, instead of the current Level 2. Level 2 calls for practicing enhanced precautions, while Level 3 calls for avoiding non-essential travel.

“Here is the problem. No one gets this illness in the continental United States today unless they get it and bring it home. So we are looking at a situation with summer travel where people are going to be going to a place where a lot of people are congregating, half a million people are coming to Brazil in the month of August for the Olympics and then they are going to go back to their respective countries. The worst case scenario they are carrying this virus to their populations,” said Burgess.

NBC 5 reached out to the CDC, it has not offered a response.



Photo Credit: EFE]]>
<![CDATA[Dallas County Confirms 2 New Zika Cases]]>Thu, 16 Jun 2016 13:07:15 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/TLMD-zika-zancudo-EFE-11707843w.jpg

Dallas County Health says two more cases of Zika virus have been confirmed in the county -- both imported by travelers.

Both cases were confirmed through the testing in the DCHHS lab and are being sent to the Teas Department of State Health Services for review.

The eighth case is a 15-year-old resident of Dallas who was infected with the virus during recent travel to Honduras and El Salvador. The ninth case is a 61-year-old resident of Garland who was infected during travel to Guatemala.

For medical confidentiality and personal privacy reasons, DCHHS does not provide additional identifying information.

Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.



Photo Credit: EFE
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<![CDATA[Dallas County Confirms Seventh Case of Zika Virus]]>Mon, 13 Jun 2016 11:06:27 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-521164302.jpg

A seventh person has been diagnosed with Zika virus in Dallas County this year, county health officials announced Monday.

The 60-year-old patient contracted the virus while traveling in Honduras, Dallas County Health and Human Services said in a press release.

The statement said the patient is a resident of Dallas, but no further details were released in order to protect his or her identity.

Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Avoid Pregnancy When Near Zika Outbreak: WHO]]>Fri, 10 Jun 2016 17:08:40 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/DMN_Zika_Olympics_1200x675_703319107807.jpgThe World Health Organization is now urging women to delay getting pregnant if they travel to a country with a Zika outbreak.]]><![CDATA[Tarrant County Confirms Fifth Case of Zika Virus]]>Fri, 10 Jun 2016 17:14:25 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Mosquito-GettyImages-513621730.jpg

A fifth person has been diagnosed with Zika virus in Tarrant County, health officials say Friday.

The patient contracted the illness while traveling in St. Lucia, and lab tests confirmed the virus.

No Zika cases have been transmitted locally, according to Tarrant County Public Health.

TCPH said Friday no other health information will be released about the patient, to protect his or her identity.

Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.



Photo Credit: LatinContent/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Baby With Zika, Microcephaly Born in New Jersey]]>Wed, 01 Jun 2016 14:52:29 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Mosquito-GettyImages-513621730.jpgDoctors in New Jersey delivered the first baby in the United States to have defects related to the Zika virus. The baby not only has Zika, but the condition known as microcephaly.

Photo Credit: LatinContent/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Zika-Linked Baby Born in NJ]]>Wed, 01 Jun 2016 17:09:32 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Baby60.jpg

A Honduran woman infected with Zika gave birth in New Jersey to a baby girl with birth defects caused by the virus, her doctor said Wednesday.

The infant is the second born in the United States with birth defects from the mosquito-borne virus. The first was born in Hawaii to a woman who had lived in Brazil, where the Zika epidemic began in the Americas.

The doctor said the 31-year-old mother was diagnosed with Zika in her native Central American country, where the virus has spread. She traveled to New Jersey, where she has family, to seek further treatment, he said. Hospital officials stressed that neither the mother nor the baby poses an infectious risk to others.

Al-Khan said the mother had a normal ultrasound early in her pregnancy, and that another one last week showed birth defects, including microcephaly, in which the baby's head is smaller than expected because the brain hasn't developed properly. He said there was a "medical need" for delivering the baby at about 35 weeks of gestation, more than a month shy of full term.

"It was very sad for us to see a baby born with such a condition," he said.

Al-Khan said the prognosis for babies born with microcephaly, which also can signal underlying brain damage, is "generally very poor."

The mother is "hanging in there" said Al-Khan. "But of course what human being isn't going to be devastated by this news?"

The Zika virus causes only a mild and brief illness, at worst, in most people. In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there was enough evidence to declare that Zika causes microcephaly and other brain defects.

Ten countries have reported cases of microcephaly linked to Zika, which is spread primarily through mosquito bites and can also be transmitted through sex. The baby born in Hawaii also had microcephaly.

The CDC and the World Health Organization have recommended that pregnant women avoid traveling to Zika-affected countries.

So far, all the nearly 600 cases of Zika infection reported in the United States have been connected to travel to outbreak areas — none were locally transmitted. Of that tally, 168 are pregnant women. The CDC has not released details about those pregnancies or any outcome.

Scientists are still trying to determine how risky a Zika infection is for pregnant women. In a study last week, CDC researchers estimated that the risk of microcephaly is in the range of 1 percent to 14 percent.

Newborns with microcephaly often act just like other newborns, perhaps a bit fussier, NBC News reported. But the disabilities will appear as the growing children miss important milestones. They'll have learning deficiencies, vision problems and hearing problems, and many will also have physical disabilities.

There is no cure.

The World Health Organization released new guidelines Tuesday advising people who recently traveled to a Zika-infected country to wait eight weeks before trying to conceive, even if neither partner has symptoms of the virus, which can be sexually transmitted. It also urges protected sex in general.  

RELATED: What to Know About the Zika Virus

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Hackensack University Medical Center]]>
<![CDATA[Tigers Closer Rodriguez Says He Contracted Zika]]>Wed, 01 Jun 2016 07:12:12 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-536239078.jpg

Detroit Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez says he contracted the Zika virus over the off-season in his home country of Venezuela and advises potential Olympic athletes to educate themselves on the virus before heading to Rio de Janeiro.

Rodriguez told ESPN.com on Tuesday that he wouldn't blame athletes for skipping the Olympics, and that "if they have plans to have kids in the future, you've got to think about it." 

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus linked to severe birth defects and possible neurological problems in adults. 

Rodriguez says he was bedridden for about two weeks with head and body aches, sore joints and other symptoms. It felt like he had a cold at first, but as symptoms worsened, he went for bloodwork that determined it was Zika. It took about two months until he felt normal again. 

The World Health Organization last week rejected a call from 150 health experts to consider postponing or moving the Olympics due to Zika in hard-hit Brazil. WHO argued the shift would make no significant difference to the spread of the virus. 

A number of possible Olympic participants have voiced concerns about Zika recently, including Pau Gasol, Serena Williams and Rory McIlroy. Gasol says he has considering skipping Rio altogether. 

"It's something people have to be careful with and worry about," Rodriguez said. "There's no vaccine for it. It's not like you take a shot and (improve). ... It could be global."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: MLB Photos via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[WHO Rejects Call to Move Rio Olympics]]>Sat, 28 May 2016 11:41:10 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/189*120/GettyImages-481591670.jpg

The World Health Organization says there is "no public health justification" for postponing or canceling the Rio de Janeiro Olympics because of the Zika outbreak.

The assessment, in a statement early Saturday, came after 150 health experts issued an open letter to the U.N. health agency calling for the games to be delayed or relocated "in the name of public health."

Friday's letter cited recent scientific evidence that the Zika virus causes severe birth defects, most notably babies born with abnormally small heads. In adults, it can cause neurological problems, including a rare syndrome that can be fatal or result in temporary paralysis.

The authors also noted that despite increased efforts to wipe out the mosquitoes that spread Zika, the number of infections in Rio have gone up rather than down.

WHO, however, said that "based on current assessment, cancelling or changing the location of the 2016 Olympics will not significantly alter the international spread of Zika virus."

Several public health academics have previously warned that having hundreds of thousands of people travel to the Aug. 5-21 games in Brazil will inevitably lead to the births of more brain-damaged babies and speed up the virus' global spread.

The Geneva-based U.N. health agency argued that Brazil is one of almost 60 countries and territories which are reporting transmission of the virus by mosquitoes, and that "people continue to travel between these countries and territories for a variety of reasons."

"Based on the current assessment of Zika virus circulating in almost 60 countries globally and 39 in the Americas, there is no public health justification for postponing or cancelling the games," it said. "WHO will continue to monitor the situation and update our advice as necessary."

It pointed to existing advice for pregnant women not to travel to areas with Zika virus transmission, among other recommendations.

WHO declared the spread of Zika in the Americas to be a global emergency in February.

Its statement Saturday made no direct reference to the health experts' letter, which also highlighted the decades-long collaboration between WHO and the International Olympic Committee.

The authors said the "overly close" relationship "was last affirmed in 2010 at an event where the Director-General of WHO and president of the IOC signed a memorandum of understanding, which is secret because neither has disclosed it."

The IOC rejected the idea that the two organizations are too close, saying in an emailed comment that it "does not currently have an MoU with the World Health Organization."

The last one, it added, "outlined cooperation between the two organizations to promote physical activity to fight strokes, heart attacks, diabetes and obesity."

AP Sports Writer Stephen Wilson contributed from London.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



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<![CDATA[Zika Concerns Help Local Pest Control Biz]]>Fri, 27 May 2016 21:08:17 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Mosquito11.jpg

Private mosquito control companies are enjoying big business in North Texas this spring.

Michael Bosco with Safe Haven Pest Control said customers are concerned about the chance for mosquito carried diseases and the prevalence of bugs already biting this year.

“We can’t keep up with our mosquito sprays at all. The weather is not helping us, but the demand for mosquito applications has sky rocketed,” Bosco said.

Bosco uses Mosquito Steve products that claim to be safe for people and pets.

Steve Moore who runs Mosquito Steve said his products are selling earlier than normal this year.

“I’ve been doing radio interviews all over the country because people are worried about Zika virus,” Moore said. “Here’s the important thing, though, West Nile virus is probably going to be more prevalent this year.”

After recent rain, there’s plenty of standing water to breed disease carrying mosquitoes in North Texas. This year’s fourth Tarrant County human case of Zika virus, reported Friday, highlighted the threat. That person recently traveled to Puerto Rico.

No North Texas mosquitoes have been found testing positive for Zika. But the disease that’s linked to birth defects is expected to show up in North Texas mosquitoes eventually. Zika could spread in North Texas if mosquitoes that bite an infected person transmit the disease to other people.

Deadly West Nile Virus has been found in North Texas mosquitoes again this year.

“It’s definitely a big concern for me,” said Safe Haven customer Lori Bannon. “I’m immune suppressed, so there’s a big concern for me with Zika or West Nile. And then I have my elderly parents living here with me, so it’s a big concern for them.”

Bannon has her yard sprayed twice a month and also has a misting system around the house that uses Mosquito Steve insect repellent.

“We want to be able to use our yard. We have this gorgeous yard and patio,” she said.

The variety of mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus is most active at dawn and dusk.

The variety of mosquitoes known to carry Zika virus is active around the clock and more likely to be found close to homes and buildings.

“If you’re getting bitten by mosquitoes, then basically, there is a breeding opportunity somewhere,” Dallas County Health Director Zachary Thompson said.

Professional pest control people can be helpful, but Thompson said residents can fight on their own by removing standing water where mosquitoes breed.

“Definitely do an assessment around your home,” Thompson said. “We’re talking about breeding opportunities that cannot be identified unless you as a homeowner do an assessment.”

Flower pots and bird baths are examples of routine household fixtures that can foster disease.

“Anything that gives a chance for mosquitoes to breed around your home needs to be eliminated,” Thompson said.



Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes Fight Zika Spread]]>Thu, 26 May 2016 17:09:15 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/virus+zika+puerto+rico.jpgDr. Seema Yasmin, medical expert at The Dallas Morning News, discusses how genetically engineered mosquitoes could be a new weapon in the fight against the Zika epidemic.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA['Natural' Mosquito Repellents Don't Last: Consumer Reports]]>Tue, 24 May 2016 09:48:43 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZikaMosquitoAP_791168702393.jpg

Most so-called natural mosquito repellents containing naturally derived oils smell nice but don't keep mosquitos off as long as those containing synthetic chemicals, Consumer Reports found.

Consumer Reports said it tested 16 products to see which work best against the Aedes mosquitoes that spread Zika as well as against Culex mosquitoes, which spread West Nile, and the ticks that carry Lyme. The products contain a range of active ingredients, including conventional chemicals like DEET, synthetic plantlike compounds that resemble those found in nature, and plant oils like citronella and rosemary, according to the group.

Their three top pics contain a different synthetic chemical: Sawyer Picaridin (20 percent picaridin); Ben's 30 Percent Deet Tick & Insect Wilderness Formula (30 percent DEET) and Repel Lemon Eucalyptus (65 percent p-menthane-3,8-diol, a synthetic derivative of eucalyptus).



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Trying To Get Jump On Zika Preparations With Money In Limbo]]>Sat, 21 May 2016 09:43:34 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Mosquito-GettyImages-513621730.jpg

Beg, borrow and steal: Zika preparation involves a bit of all three as federal, state and local health officials try to get a jump on the mosquito-borne virus while Congress haggles over how much money they really need.

With that financing in limbo, health officials are shifting resources and setting priorities -- and not just in states where mosquitoes are starting to buzz. All but six states so far have seen travel-associated cases of Zika.

"Stealing money from myself" is how Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health describes raiding his agency's malaria, tuberculosis and influenza programs to fund a Zika vaccine.

He needs more cash by the end of June to keep the vaccine on schedule. And there's no guarantee those other critical diseases will recoup about $20 million.

"If we don't get something soon, then we're going to have a real problem," Fauci said.

Adding to the stress: What if another health emergency comes along at the same time?

"It's Zika now, but three months from now, who knows what it might be?" said Dr. Tim Jones, state epidemiologist in Tennessee, where few counties have mosquito eradication efforts.

Yet with funding pleas unanswered, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shifted $44 million to Zika from emergency preparedness grants that help state and local health departments with crises from flu outbreaks to hurricanes.

"You have to be careful when you take cuts from core infrastructure for the disease of the day," Tennessee's Jones said. "That's a risky way to do things."

Zika can cause devastating birth defects and fetal death if pregnant women become infected. Mosquitoes aren't yet spreading Zika in the continental U.S., but the epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean has experts predicting small outbreaks here as mosquito season heats up. The more than 540 U.S. cases diagnosed so far involve travel to outbreak areas or sex with infected travelers. The CDC is tracking the outcomes of 157 Zika-infected pregnant women in the U.S., plus another 122 in U.S. territories.

Three months ago, President Barack Obama requested $1.9 billion in emergency funding to fend off Zika. The House and Senate are arguing over how much to grant -- and whether the money should come from cuts to other programs -- with no final agreement in sight. House Republicans say the administration has padded its Zika request.

The Obama administration already shifted nearly $600 million from funds for Ebola flare-ups in West Africa and other accounts. On Friday, the president said lifetime care for a child born with Zika-caused brain damage may cost up to $10 million.

"Add that up. It doesn't take a lot of cases for you to get to $1.9 billion. Why wouldn't we want to make that investment now?" Obama said.

Many state and local health departments aren't waiting, but efforts vary widely:

--Florida is no stranger to mosquito-borne outbreaks -- it has handled small outbreaks of dengue, carried by the same mosquito as Zika -- and is squeezing money out of its usual budget to step up training and traps for areas that need extra help. Officials opened a Zika information hotline that has fielded more than 1,700 calls since February. Miami-Dade County is stepping up enforcement of standing water violations and statewide, residents are being told to screen windows and rid their property of containers that trap rainwater.

Gov. Rick Scott has said the threat of a Zika outbreak should trigger the same response as an approaching hurricane and last week lobbied in Washington for more resources. While Scott hasn't named a dollar figure, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has supported Obama's request. "It's a mistake for Congress to try and deal with Zika on the cheap," he said on Friday.

--New Orleans' health department has begun sending staffers into neighborhoods to educate residents about Zika and advise them on making their yards less mosquito-friendly -- workers also preparing for hurricane season.

"Whether we get money or not, we're going to do what we got to do," said health director Charlotte Parent. "But it sure would help to have those extra bodies to get that work done."

--Virginia took about $700,000 remaining from a federal Ebola grant to hire two mosquito biologists, pay for some testing of mosquitoes and travelers, and educate the public, including plans to hang information on 450,000 doors.

This marks Virginia's first mosquito surveillance program since 2007.

--Texas can perform dozens of blood tests a week for Zika, but that capacity could easily be overwhelmed if there's an outbreak, Health Commissioner John Hellerstedt said.

The state is spending $2 million in federal emergency preparedness money on public awareness but can't estimate how much more it needs, in part because mosquito control, like in many states, is funded almost entirely at the county and local level.

--Savannah and surrounding Chatham County has Georgia's best-funded mosquito-control department at $3.8 million and will send some mosquitoes for Zika testing at the University of Georgia.

"A lot of these counties wouldn't be able to afford to do that," said Savannah mosquito control director.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: LatinContent/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pregnant Women Infected With Zika Virus in Garland]]>Fri, 20 May 2016 16:09:13 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/178*120/Zika.png

The City of Garland Health Department has confirmed the first case of Zika virus in a pregnant woman in Garland on Friday. They say another pregnant woman has tested positive in a preliminary Zika test, but is awaiting official results from the CDC.

Garland Health Department officials said in a press release these North Texas women traveled to Central American and returned several weeks ago without displaying any Zika virus symptoms.

The infected individual was tested for the Zika virus based on CDC guidelines since she is pregnant and recently traveled to a country with local transmission of Zika. The test came back as a preliminary positive and was sent to the CDC for confirmation. The CDC confirmed the case and notified the city of Garland today. The city of Garland is awaiting confirmation on the second case.

The names of these individuals have not been released. There is currently no information about the statuses of the babies' health or the mothers' pregnancies.

According to the press release, there is no local threat of Zika transmission in the metroplex at this time.The individual had not returned to Garland during the disease phase of the virus when she was capable of transmitting Zika via mosquitoes.

GHD reminds north Texas that the Zika virus is generally spread from person-to-person through the bite of the Aedes mosquito species. These mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters that typically lay eggs in artificial containers.There is no vaccine or cure for Zika.

Prevention measures that GHD recommends include dressing to prevent mosquito bites and drain and remove all standing water near your home.

The GHD encourages individuals traveling to areas where local transmission is occurring to protect themselves against mosquito bites and to contact their health care provider immediately if they develop Zika virus-like symptoms.

Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes), but not everyone experiences symptoms. The illness can last several days to a week and severe cases may require hospitalization. The Zika virus has been associated with birth defects including microcephaly and fetal losses.

For additional information on Zika virus or other mosquito-borne diseases, visit the GHD webpage or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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<![CDATA[157 Pregnant Women in US States Have Zika: CDC]]>Fri, 20 May 2016 13:13:30 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/180*120/embarazo225.jpg

The number of pregnant women in the United States infected with Zika virus is suddenly tripling, due to a change in how the government is reporting cases. 

Previously, officials had reported how many pregnant women had both Zika symptoms and positive blood tests. In a change announced Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's count will include all women who tested positive, regardless of symptoms.

There are now 157 pregnant women infected with Zika in the 50 states, up from the 48 reported last week under the old definition. The agency also presented new numbers for pregnant women the territories of Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It rose to 122 cases from 65. 

Experts emphasized that there does not appear to be any dramatic actual increase of pregnant women with the disease in recent months. There was a spike in diagnoses in February and March, but relatively few new cases since then, according to CDC data that includes women who experienced symptoms and those who didn't. 

The Zika virus causes only a mild and brief illness, at worst, in most people. But in the last year, infections in pregnant women have been strongly linked to fetal deaths and to potentially devastating birth defects, mostly in Brazil.

The virus is spread mainly through the bite of a tropical mosquito called Aedes aegypti. It can be found in the southern United States, but there's no evidence that they've been spreading the virus in the U.S. yet. All the 544 total cases in the 50 states so far have been people who had traveled to outbreak areas, or who had sex with someone who did. 

Experts think mosquitoes on the U.S. mainland will probably start spreading the virus in the months ahead, when hot weather hits and mosquito populations boom.

The sudden rise in the count of pregnant women with the disease in the U.S. may seem jarring. But Dr. Neil Silverman, a UCLA professor of obstetrics who has been advising the California Department of Public Health on Zika issues, explained the change in method does not indicate a greater risk of infection. 

When he gets calls from patients, he said, "About 90 percent of what we're doing is reassuring and calming people." 

Only an estimated 1 in 5 people infected with Zika develop symptoms — fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes — which usually last no more than a week. 

Initially, doctors recognized the connection between the virus and birth defects only in women who had suffered symptoms during pregnancy. But reports published this year indicate some pregnant women with laboratory evidence of a recent Zika infection — but who never had symptoms — have delivered infants with these defects. 

International health agencies have already been reporting Zika infections in women based solely on lab tests. Some experts have found it surprising that the CDC has been basing its official number on a more conservative case definition. 

However, CDC officials had voiced concerns that one kind of blood test is too prone to giving a false positive test result if a woman was infected with a different but similar tropical virus. 

CDC officials on Friday said it's possible the new count may include a few false positives, but they say the new count will offer a more complete picture of the effects of Zika in the U.S. states and territories. 

CDC says doctors should consider testing pregnant women who have been to an area where Zika is spreading, whether or not they have symptoms. Doctors also are encouraged to ask pregnant women if their sex partner has been infected or traveled to an outbreak area. 

The new counting "will give us a better idea of the correlation between a mom's symptoms and the effects on the baby," said Dr. Richard Beigi, an obstetrics expert at the University of Pittsburgh. 

The CDC did not say how many Zika-infected pregnant women were believed to have been infected during travel and how many got it through sex. Officials said the count has includes diagnoses made over several months, and while many of the women in the count still are pregnant, some of the pregnancies have ended since the women were first diagnosed. The agency did not detail the outcomes of the pregnancies. 

Also on Friday, President Barack Obama was briefed by top federal health officials about Zika. Administration officials have asked Congress for about $1.9 billion in emergency funding for vaccine development and other Zika work.

The Senate on Thursday approved its $1.1 billion plan to combat the Zika virus. The House on Wednesday approved only $622 million, meaning difficult negotiations remain over how much money to devote to fighting the virus and whether to cut funding allocated to study and combat the Ebola virus to help pay for it.

Obama repeated his call for the full requested amount. 

"Bottom line is Congress needs to get me a bill. It needs to get me a bill that has sufficient funds to do the job," he said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: UIG via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dallas Co. Leader Sounds Alarm Over Zika Funding]]>Thu, 19 May 2016 18:33:58 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZikaMosquitoAP_791168702393.jpg

Dallas County's top elected official sounded an alarm Thursday over Zika virus funding slashed by the U.S. Congress from the President's original request months ago.

The U.S. House Thursday night approved $622 million to fight Zika, while the U.S. Senate earlier this week approved $1.1 billion.

President Barack Obama in February requested $1.9 billion to fund vaccine research and help health officials prepare the United States for the likely arrival of Zika infected mosquitoes this year.

"I think that people should be alarmed that Congress is failing to act," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said.

Information from the White House shows the type of mosquitoes known to carry Zika are now expected to spread well north of Texas from the south this summer. And a second variety, likely to be present in Texas, is now known to be a possible Zika carrier, too.

The main Zika virus threat is birth defects for babies born to mothers infected with the disease. But Jenkins said Zika has also now been linked to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a nerve disease that can affect anyone.

"It's disconcerting that every time a new scientific study comes out about the Zika outbreak, it's more bad news. That's why we need Congress to go back and fully fund the Zika fight," Jenkins said.

Without the extra federal money, Dallas County has arranged for extra mosquito spraying this year and launched a preparedness campaign to warn residents.

Thursday, Dallas County reported the first 2016 positive tests for mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus. No human West Nile cases have been reported in 2016.

In 2012, 20 Dallas County residents died of West Nile virus and 197 other people contracted serious cases of that disease.

The Culex mosquitoes associated with West Nile are more active at dawn and dusk.

The Aedes mosquito breeds associated with Zika virus are active around the clock and are more likely to be found around homes and buildings in urban areas. So far, the Dallas County human cases of Zika virus have all been connected with people who traveled to areas of the world where the virus is already present in mosquitoes. Officials believe it is only a matter of time before Zika carrying mosquitoes are found in North Texas.

"You've got a role to play as well and that's to make sure you wear bug spray when you go outside and drain standing water," Jenkins said.

Zika can also be transmitted by infected men through sexual contact.



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Questions Remain About the Zika Virus]]>Thu, 19 May 2016 17:29:40 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/178*120/Zika.pngThere are still a lot of questions about the Zika virus that scientists are trying to answer. Dr. Seema Yasmin, medical expert with The Dallas Morning News, has been following this very closely.]]><![CDATA[House GOP Presses Ahead With $622M Bill to Fight Zika]]>Thu, 19 May 2016 03:40:44 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZikaMosquitoes-AP_16127497121865.jpg

Republicans controlling the House pushed through on Wednesday a $622 million bill to battle the Zika virus, setting up challenging and high-stakes negotiations with the GOP-controlled Senate and the White House — each of which has competing ideas on how to best address the Zika threat.

The 241-184 House vote broke mostly along party lines as Democrats lined up in opposition, heeding a White House veto threat and a warning from a top government health official that the bill wouldn't do enough to respond to the growing threat from Zika. 

"It's just not enough," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden said of the House measure. "It doesn't give Americans the protections they deserve, and with every day of delay it gets harder to do this." He added that he's "optimistic that at the end of the day they're going to do the right thing on Zika." 

Overall, President Barack Obama requested $1.9 billion three months ago for the fight against Zika, which is spread by mosquitoes and sexual contact and can cause severe birth defects. The Senate is moving ahead this week with a $1.1 billion plan and agreed with Obama that the money should be added to the budget deficit rather than be "offset" with cuts to other programs. 

Democrats and the White House have been hammering at Republicans for dragging their feet on Zika, but the political tempest in Washington hasn't been matched by fear among the public, at least according to recent polling. But GOP leaders see a political imperative to act as the summer mosquito season heats up. 

The House bill, however, provides one-third of the request and limits the use of the money to the current budget year, which ends Sept. 30. It cuts funds provided in 2014 to fight Ebola to help offset the cost of the additional Zika money. 

Frieden said in an interview with The Associated Press that the House measure would hamper the CDC's ability to monitor women and babies with the virus over coming years, fight the mosquitoes that spread it, and develop better diagnostic tests.

"This is an unprecedented situation," Frieden said. "We've never had a situation before where a single mosquito bite could result in you giving birth to a child with a terrible birth defect that could change the rest of your life."

When Congress didn't act on Obama's request, he devoted almost $600 million in previous appropriations, mostly leftover funding from the recent and successful effort to fight Ebola, to combat Zika. Republicans had pressed for the funding shift as a first step to battle Zika and they say the pending measure will carry the battle at least through the Sept. 30 end of the current budget year. 

"Everything that has needed to be done has been done," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. 

On Tuesday, the Senate advanced a $1.1 billion measure to fight Zika that earned sweeping support from Democrats even though it's less than the White House request. It is soon to be added to an unrelated spending bill, which adds a procedural wrinkle since the House bill will advance as a separate stand-alone measure. 

The White House says the House plan is woefully inadequate and has threatened to veto it. Asked Wednesday about the compromise Senate measure, however, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, "I don't have a veto threat to issue."

In fact, the Senate measure and the Obama request are fairly similar when it comes to how much money to spend on Zika; the main difference is that the president wants back the almost $600 million he diverted last month from the Ebola battle and other accounts. That money is being used to conduct research on the virus and Zika-related birth defects, create response teams to limit Zika's spread, and other countries fight the virus. 

"We can stop this crisis before it gets worse, but we have to act now and fully fund the President's request," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. "Months from now, when the results of our inaction become apparent, we will ask ourselves, 'why did we delay? Why did we wait?'" 

Republicans say the administration has padded its Zika request and say there is plenty of unspent money in the budget to ameliorate its impact on the budget deficit. 

The GOP measure provides funding for researching vaccines, controlling the mosquitoes that spread Zika, developing better tests to detect Zika, and providing money to foreign governments to quell mosquito populations and inform people how to avoid getting the virus. Its cost is financed in part by further cutting unspent Ebola funding.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Health Officials Say Zika 'Likely' in Texas]]>Tue, 17 May 2016 17:50:43 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/TLMD-zancudo-mosquito-zancudo-Zika-EFE-11764687w.jpg

Texas has identified 33 cases of the Zika virus that all were associated with overseas travel -- but the virus is expected to begin spreading within the state soon.

Top state officials told a Texas Senate health panel Tuesday that potential hot zones include Dallas, Houston, the Gulf Coast and the Rio Grande Valley. Zika is commonly spread by mosquitoes.

There have been 500-plus Zika cases nationwide, but all involved foreign travel.

Health officials told lawmakers that Texas can only conduct a few dozen blood tests for the virus per week. That means an outbreak could overwhelm the system.

Texas has formed a special infectious disease task force, and scientists are working on a vaccine. But it won't be ready by when peak mosquito season begins later this month.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: EFE]]>
<![CDATA[Senate Likely to Advance $1.1 Billion in Zika Funding]]>Tue, 17 May 2016 16:36:07 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZikaMosquitoes-AP_16127497121865.jpg

After a three-month delay, the Senate is acting on President Barack Obama's request for money to combat the Zika virus.

The Senate is slated to vote Tuesday on three competing plans to battle the virus, with a bipartisan plan that cuts Obama's $1.9 billion request to $1.1 billion having the greatest chance to advance. The procedural vote would pave the way to add funds for the government's response to Zika to an unrelated spending bill.

For pregnant women, Zika can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects, as well as eye problems, hearing deficits and impaired growth. Zika is commonly spread by mosquitoes and can also be contracted through sexual contact.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that pregnant women not travel to areas with Zika and that if they live in a Zika area to strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites and to prevent sexual transmission.

Zika is expected to spread more widely during the summer mosquito season, but officials say outbreaks in the U.S. are likely to be limited. To date, there have been more than 500 cases of Zika in the continental U.S., all of which so far have been associated with overseas travel.

Obama requested the funding in February and has been forced to tap unspent 2015 funds from the successful battle against Ebola to finance almost $600 million in anti-Zika efforts. They include research on the virus and Zika-related birth defects, response teams to limit Zika's spread, and helping other countries fight the virus.

House Republicans on Monday unveiled their Zika proposal, which would slice Obama's request to $622 million and pair it with offsetting spending cuts to unspent Ebola funding and leftover money at the Department of Health and Human Services. The House measure, slated for a vote as early as Wednesday, will advance as a stand-alone bill and it's unclear how difficult it will be to forge a compromise between the two chambers.

The White House issued a veto threat on the House measure on Tuesday, saying it is "woefully inadequate" and protested that the House measure would only fund the Zika battle through Sept. 30.

"It is woefully insufficient given the significant risk that is posed by Zika," said White House Press secretary Josh Earnest. "The House of Representatives is three months late and more than a billion short."

"We see the people of this country facing a public health threat," said Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who supports the full $1.9 billion Obama request. "Our response should be `Let's deal with it the way that medical experts are saying we need to deal with it."'

The White House and its Democratic allies have been sharply critical of Republicans controlling Congress over delays in providing additional funds, which they say is required for mosquito control, purchasing diagnostic tests and developing and manufacturing a vaccine.

"This funding is critical to stop the spread of Zika, and to protect our most vulnerable people both here at home and abroad. Every child deserves the chance at a full and healthy life, and every mother deserves to see her child thrive," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky.

The bipartisan Senate measure was negotiated by Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Patty Murray, D-Wash. It is relatively close to what the White House has asked for, except it does not pay back very much of the already-tapped Ebola money or give Puerto Rico, a Zika hot spot, help with its Medicaid program. One provision would provide $248 million to combat Zika overseas through mosquito control, maternal and child health programs, and public information campaigns.

"It's a targeted approach that focuses on immediate needs while also providing resources for longer-term goals like a vaccine," said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who added the compromise "represents a notable departure from our Democratic colleagues' initial position."

McConnell set up a series of votes, first on an alternative Senate plan by Florida Democrat Bill Nelson and his home-state GOP colleague Marco Rubio that largely mirrors Obama's request. It's likely to be killed by a filibuster, as is a GOP proposal by Texas Senator John Cornyn that taps a prevention fund established under the Affordable Care Act to offset the Zika funding.

That would leave the compromise, which Murray called "a bipartisan first step toward protecting families from this virus," as the only alternative left standing.

The administration is urging lawmakers to deliver additional anti-Zika funds before Congress recesses for Memorial Day. A more likely deadline is early to mid-July, when lawmakers leave Washington for a seven-week recess dictated by earlier-than-usual national political conventions.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Microcephaly Case in Puerto Rico]]>Fri, 13 May 2016 12:58:14 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/virus+zika+puerto+rico.jpg

Puerto Rico on Friday announced its first Zika-related microcephaly case as concerns grow over an outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus in the U.S. territory.

Health Secretary Ana Rius said a fetus turned over by an unidentified woman to U.S. health officials had severe microcephaly and tested positive for Zika. Rius declined to say whether the woman had an abortion or miscarried, but said the microcephaly was diagnosed through a sonogram. She declined to provide other details.

"I want to urge any pregnant women with even the slightest concern of infection to go see a doctor," she said.

Zika can cause severe birth defects, such as babies being born with abnormally small heads and brain damage. The World Health Organization declared Zika a global emergency in February, and the virus has spread quickly throughout the Americas.

Puerto Rico has counted 925 cases of Zika, including 128 pregnant women. At least 14 pregnant women infected with Zika have given birth to healthy babies. Rius said the unidentified woman who donated her fetus did not test positive for Zika or present symptoms but she clearly was infected at one point. The health secretary noted that there is only a short period when people with Zika test positive for the virus, and after that it no longer shows up.

So far, 27 people with Zika have been hospitalized in Puerto Rico, and one Zika-related death has been reported.

The announcement comes as Rius called for restraint over concerns about the spread of Zika in Puerto Rico, which has scared off tourists and prompted Major League Baseball to scrap a series scheduled for the end of May.

"This is creating an unnecessary chaos," she said. "If I'm telling you that there are 925 cases of more than 14,000 analyzed tests, we obviously don't have that big of a chaos that they want to pretend exists."

The virus has been yet another blow to a debt-ridden island struggling to generate revenue amid a decade-long economic crisis that is worsening.

Rius stressed that health authorities are working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and noted that the island has a robust vigilance program.

"We are working hard to prevent this sickness," she said.

A CDC spokeswoman said the agency would soon issue a statement.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico health authorities are trying to create a database of microcephaly cases. Dr. Miguel Valencia, a pediatrician who is working with the island's health department to fight Zika, said authorities are analyzing data from 2013 to 2015 and have found so far that there are five microcephaly cases per 10,000 births in Puerto Rico. He said the birth defect can be caused in part by women who drink or have severe diabetes.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Senate Strikes Bipartisan Deal Worth $1.1 Billion to Fight Zika]]>Thu, 12 May 2016 19:56:55 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZikaMosquitoes-AP_16127497121865.jpg

The Senate struck a bipartisan compromise deal to give President Obama more than half the money he’s asked for to fight the Zika virus, NBC News reports. 

The deal was brokered by Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican, and Washington Democrat Patty Murray. It will allocate $1.1 billion in emergency funding to help states prepare for the virus before mosquito season starts.

Obama has been pushing for $1.9 billion in emergency funding. Republicans in Congress have balked at giving so much money in a funding stream that gives Congress so little control. Some conservatives worry it will be used as a slush fund to pay for other public health initiatives. 

Zika is spreading quickly across Central and South America. Health officials say there will be cases and outbreaks in the United States once the weather gets warmer and mosquitoes get really active.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Zika Outbreak in US Could Spark Abortion Debate]]>Thu, 12 May 2016 10:00:21 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Mosquito-GettyImages-513621730.jpg

There's little doubt: Zika is coming to the continental United States, bringing frightening birth defects — and, most likely, newly urgent discussions about abortion and contraception.

Fearful they might bear children who suffer from brain-damaging birth defects caused by Zika, more women are expected to look for ways to prevent or end pregnancies. But the highest risk of Zika spreading is in Southern states where long-lasting birth control and abortions are harder to procure, and where a mosquito that transmits the virus already is plentiful.

"I think it's really important, facing this potential for Zika transmission in the U.S., to be thoughtful and prepared to have straightforward conversations about reproductive health services," said Dr. Christine Curry, a University of Miami obstetrician who has been treating women concerned about Zika infection.

The issue has already have been raised in Latin America, epicenter of the Zika epidemic and home to numerous countries where abortion is illegal.

Zika is mainly spread by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, but that kind of transmission has not yet been seen in the U.S. mainland. Most of the 472 reported infections in the 50 states have been seen in people who travelled to — and were infected in — Zika outbreak countries. Mosquitoes have already been spreading the virus in Puerto Rico and two other subtropical U.S. territories.

Experts think that will happen elsewhere in the U.S. in the months ahead, when hot weather hits and mosquito populations boom.

They don't expect Zika to sweep the U.S. mainland the way it spread through some Latin American and Caribbean countries. A colder climate limits the range of Aedes aegypti, and the greater use of air conditioning and window screens will probably lessen its impact even in the Southern states where transmission is most likely.

The betting money is on clusters of cases limited to a few states — most likely Florida, Texas or Hawaii.

And it's not yet clear what percentage of cases of Zika infection during pregnancy will result in death or severe damage for the fetus.

"That's one of the most important questions for us to answer" right now, said the CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat at a White House briefing last month.

A couple of small, early reviews of cases in other countries suggest that somewhere between 1 and 29 per cent of women infected with Zika during pregnancy might have fetuses or babies with birth defects.

If the risk is 1 per cent, a pregnant woman may well want to carry through the pregnancy. As the risk gets larger, at some point more women may think about abortion, experts say.

Complicating the decision: Even in cases when women are infected early in their pregnancy, ultrasound exams of fetuses have not shown signs of Zika-related birth defects until after 20 weeks — a point at which destruction of the fetus would be considered a "late-term abortion."

Late-term abortions are more expensive, can be riskier for the mother, and involve a more developed fetus. About 20 states prohibit abortions past a certain number of weeks, in some cases making exceptions to save the life or health of the woman. In 12 of the states, the prohibitions kick in at 20 to 22 weeks.

Serious birth defects "may not be picked up until well after the termination cut-off in a specific state. Termination may not be an option for these women," said Dr. Jeanne Sheffield, a Johns Hopkins University obstetrician who has advised the CDC on Zika-related pregnancy issues.

The spectre of any Zika-driven abortions is alarming, said the Rev. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life. "The child in the womb is a patient too, and killing one's patient is never an appropriate response," he said in a statement.

Though the U.S. Supreme Court famously ruled abortion is legal in 1973, the last decade has seen state legislatures pass a wave of abortion limitations and restrictions, including when during a pregnancy abortions can be done, and what techniques can be used. The number of clinics, hospitals and doctors' offices that perform abortions has been shrinking, with notable declines in some of the states most likely to see Zika outbreaks.

A closely related topic is birth control.

Nearly half of U.S. pregnancies are unintended, meaning a couple failed to properly use effective kinds of contraception. In Texas, it's more than half. And in Florida, it's nearly 60 per cent, according to Guttmacher Institute estimates from 2010.

The national figure "indicates to me there is a large unmet need for contraception in the United States, and that we need to look for ways to make contraception more available for women who want it," said Dr. Denise Jamieson, leader of a CDC team looking at Zika and unintended pregnancy.

There has been a push in some states to keep contraception funding away from groups that might refer women to abortion clinics.

In 2013, the Texas legislature cut Planned Parenthood from the program that funds birth control and other family planning services for low-income women. In a medical journal article published this year, researchers looked at the effect of that change. They reported significant declines in women using long-acting forms of birth control, and a significant increase in births to low-income women.

Florida's legislature recently adopted a similar measure, to cut Planned Parenthood clinics out of Medicaid funding.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: LatinContent/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[When Zika Hits, A Push for Birth Control and Abortion?]]>Wed, 11 May 2016 15:24:19 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/virus+zika+puerto+rico.jpg

There's little doubt: Zika is coming to the continental United States, bringing frightening birth defects -- and, most likely, newly urgent discussions about abortion and contraception.

Fearful they might bear children who suffer from brain-damaging birth defects caused by Zika, more women are expected to look for ways to prevent or end pregnancies. But the highest risk of Zika spreading is in Southern states where long-lasting birth control and abortions are harder to procure, and where a mosquito that transmits the virus already is plentiful.

"I think it's really important, facing this potential for Zika transmission in the U.S., to be thoughtful and prepared to have straightforward conversations about reproductive health services," said Dr. Christine Curry, a University of Miami obstetrician who has been treating women concerned about Zika infection.

The issues already have been raised in Latin America, epicenter of the Zika epidemic and home to numerous countries where abortion is illegal.

Zika is mainly spread by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, but that kind of transmission has not yet been seen in the U.S. mainland. Most of the 472 reported infections in the 50 states have been seen in people who traveled to -- and were infected in -- Zika outbreak countries. Mosquitoes have already been spreading the virus in Puerto Rico and two other subtropical U.S. territories.

Experts think that will happen elsewhere in the U.S. in the months ahead, when hot weather hits and mosquito populations boom.

They don't expect Zika to sweep the U.S. mainland the way it spread through some Latin American and Caribbean countries. A colder climate limits the range of Aedes aegypti, and the greater use of air conditioning and window screens will probably lessen its impact even in the Southern states where transmission is most likely.

The betting money is on clusters of cases limited to a few states -- most likely Florida, Texas or Hawaii.

And it's not yet clear what percentage of cases of Zika infection during pregnancy will result in death or severe damage for the fetus.

"That's one of the most important questions for us to answer" right now, said the CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat at a White House briefing last month.

A couple of small, early reviews of cases in other countries suggest that somewhere between 1 and 29 percent of women infected with Zika during pregnancy might have fetuses or babies with birth defects.

If the risk is 1 percent, a pregnant woman may well want to carry through the pregnancy. As the risk gets larger, at some point more women may think about abortion, experts say.

Complicating the decision: Even in cases when women are infected early in their pregnancy, ultrasound exams of fetuses have not shown signs of Zika-related birth defects until after 20 weeks -- a point at which destruction of the fetus would be considered a "late-term abortion."

Late-term abortions are more expensive, can be riskier for the mother, and involve a more developed fetus. About 20 states prohibit abortions past a certain number of weeks, in some cases making exceptions to save the life or health of the woman. In 12 of the states, the prohibitions kick in at 20 to 22 weeks.

Serious birth defects "may not be picked up until well after the termination cut-off in a specific state. Termination may not be an option for these women," said Dr. Jeanne Sheffield, a Johns Hopkins University obstetrician who has advised the CDC on Zika-related pregnancy issues.

The specter of any Zika-driven abortions is alarming, said the Rev. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life. "The child in the womb is a patient too, and killing one's patient is never an appropriate response," he said in a statement.

Though the U.S. Supreme Court famously ruled abortion is legal in 1973, the last decade has seen state legislatures pass a wave of abortion limitations and restrictions, including when during a pregnancy abortions can be done, and what techniques can be used. The number of clinics, hospitals and doctors' offices that perform abortions has been shrinking, with notable declines in some of the states most likely to see Zika outbreaks.

A closely related topic is birth control.

Nearly half of U.S. pregnancies are unintended, meaning a couple failed to properly use effective kinds of contraception. In Texas, it's more than half. And in Florida, it's nearly 60 percent, according to Guttmacher Institute estimates from 2010.

The national figure "indicates to me there is a large unmet need for contraception in the United States, and that we need to look for ways to make contraception more available for women who want it," said Dr. Denise Jamieson, leader of a CDC team looking at Zika and unintended pregnancy.

There has been a push in some states to keep contraception funding away from groups that might refer women to abortion clinics.

In 2013, the Texas legislature cut Planned Parenthood from the program that funds birth control and other family planning services for low-income women. In a medical journal article published this year, researchers looked at the effect of that change. They reported significant declines in women using long-acting forms of birth control, and a significant increase in births to low-income women.

Florida's legislature recently adopted a similar measure, to cut Planned Parenthood clinics out of Medicaid funding.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pregnant Conn. Teen Contracts Zika]]>Tue, 10 May 2016 14:45:12 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/AP_16130675427326.jpg

A Connecticut teenager who recently learned she was pregnant says she was shocked when she tested positive for the Zika virus.

Sara Mujica, 17, of Danbury, said she found out she was pregnant in March while she was visiting Victor Cruz, her fiance and the baby's father, in Honduras.

At the time of the pregnancy test, she said, she was getting over an illness that gave her rashes, headaches and neck aches. She thought it was related to fish she had eaten, not Zika.

Mujica said she returned to Connecticut on March 30 and went to Danbury Hospital to get tested for Zika — just in case. She said she learned of the positive Zika results during a phone call from her crying mother last week, after she had returned to Honduras.

"I was in a state of shock, honestly," Mujica told The Associated Press by phone Monday. "I didn't really know what to say. I didn't know what to do. I just started getting teary eyed and almost crying. I was just trying to stay strong."

Mosquito-borne Zika has become epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean. It can cause microcephaly, a severe birth defect in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and brain damage. Researchers don't yet know the rate at which infected women have babies with birth defects.

Mujica, who is Catholic, said she weighed her risks and decided to keep the baby.

"This is my blessing. This is my miracle," she said. "I have a cousin who has Down syndrome and he is so smart and l love him so much. I would never give up a Down syndrome child or a child with birth defects."

Officials at the state Department of Public Health and Danbury Hospital declined to comment Monday on whether Mujica tested positive for Zika.

Last week, the department revealed that a Connecticut resident who had traveled to Central America and became pregnant had been diagnosed with Zika. They didn't identify her.

Mujica said she believes she contracted Zika from a mosquito bite — and not sexual contact — while in Honduras, where Cruz lives in the city of Choloma. She is among 44 pregnant women across the U.S. who have tested positive for Zika, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tests have confirmed Zika in a total of 472 people in the U.S., with all the infections associated with travel to Zika-infected areas in other countries, according to the CDC. Connecticut officials say four people in the state have tested positive.

Mujica is hoping that Cruz can come live with her in Connecticut.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Travel-Related Zika Case Confirmed in Frisco]]>Mon, 09 May 2016 18:10:43 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/virus+zika+puerto+rico.jpg

A Frisco resident has tested positive for the Zika virus, according to the Collin County Health Department.

The patient, whose identity is not being released, recently traveled outside the United States and is not pregnant.  She is the 33rd case of Zika in Texas.

"City health inspectors visited the woman’s home to look for signs of mosquito activity or potential breeding sites; they found none. The home assessment involved ensuring the home’s window screens and doors are intact and no standing water is present," county health officials said in a news release.

While several travel-related or sexually transmitted cases of Zika have been confirmed in North Texas, none have been confirmed to have been transmitted by mosquitoes -- the most common transmission method in countries heavily affected by the virus.

“Mosquito season is here,” said Julie Stallcup, Environmental Health Supervisor. “Residents need to protect themselves from mosquito bites by using insect repellents, first and foremost. Experts tell us mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus are predominantly ‘day biters’, which differs from mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus. To fight any bites, we need to make applying insect repellents part of our daily routine.”

Symptoms of Zika infection include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes.

The Texas Department of State Health Services website encourages people to use caution when traveling in regions and countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing and to follow the 4-Ds.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Mosquitoes Bring No Urgency to Fund Zika Fight]]>Mon, 09 May 2016 10:12:33 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/PRINCIPAL-virus-del-zika-en-Arizona.jpg

The White House and Democrats are pressuring congressional Republicans to act on President Barack Obama's demands for money to combat Zika, but even the onset of mosquito season that probably will spread the virus has failed to create a sense of urgency.

Republicans from states at greatest risk, such as Florida, Texas, Louisiana and Georgia, have been slow to endorse Obama's more than 2-month-old request for $1.9 billion to battle the virus, which causes grave birth defects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently reports more than 470 cases in the continental U.S., all so far associated with travel to Zika-affected areas.

Polls show that the public isn't anywhere nearly as scared of Zika as it was about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the handful of cases in the U.S. in 2014. Aides to GOP lawmakers, even those representing Southern areas most vulnerable to Zika, say they've yet to hear from many anxious constituents, though they said this could change. "Very few calls/letters," emailed a spokeswoman for Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla.

On Monday, the National Governors Associated weighed in, urging the administration and lawmakers returning to Washington "to work together to reach agreement on the appropriate funding levels needed to prepare for and combat the Zika virus."

The congressional response to Zika contrasts sharply with the rush last year to pass legislation to curb the admission of Syrian refugees, which passed the House less than a week after terrorist attacks in Paris. Syrian refugees were erroneously linked to the attack.

"Any time there's a public health issue, bordering on crisis, there's obviously some urgency," said Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., who's running to replace Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. Jolly added, however, that "I don't know that it has become a political issue in Florida as much as it has inside the Beltway."

One voice for immediate action, however, is Rubio, who's leaving the Senate after his unsuccessful presidential bid.

"It is just a matter of days, weeks, hours before you open up a newspaper or turn on the news, and it will say that someone in the continental United States was bitten by a mosquito and they contracted Zika," Rubio said in an April 28 floor speech. "When that happens, everyone is going to be freaked out ....This is going to happen."

Rubio also has appealed for congressional action to aid debt-ridden Puerto Rico, another unresolved issue as lawmakers return to Washington on Monday for a brief, three-week May congressional session. The House may act on legislation to combat opioid abuse and perhaps belatedly pass a budget while the Senate struggles to make headway on the annual spending bills after a dispute over last year's Iran nuclear deal enveloped a popular energy and water projects measure.

Thus far, Rubio's urgency on Zika is not widely shared, though Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican, drew attention when he told reporters in Houston last month that "the risk of underreacting is really too high to take any chances."

"Sometimes the wheels of Congress move very slowly," Cornyn said. "But we want to make sure we're not writing blank checks."

One reason for the slow pace may be Ebola, which affected far fewer people but created more public fear than Zika has. The Ebola panic proved to be unjustified and was contained to just a handful of U.S. cases

A poll in March by the Kaiser Family Foundation found by a more t han 2-to-1 margin that respondents said the government is doing enough to fight Zika. But an October 2014 Kaiser poll on Ebola found that only about half of respondents thought the government was doing enough.

Just 34 percent of those polled on Zika were worried that someone in their family would be affected by the virus, versus 65 percent who were not worried; the comparable figures on Ebola showed 45 percent worried someone in their family would get sick from Ebola, versus 54 percent who were not worried.

In addition, Congress approved $5 billion to battle Ebola in 2014 and perhaps half of that money is unspent, though the administration has designs to use it to help other lesser developed countries build up their health care systems. The threat of Ebola has not been wholly snuffed out.

In April, the administration bowed to pressure from Republicans and diverted almost $600 million in previously approved funds, including more than $500 million in remaining Ebola money, toward fighting Zika. That has bought time for Republicans to seek greater details and potentially respond to Obama's request by including Zika funds in an upcoming spending bill that could be delivered to the president before Congress recesses in mid-July for seven weeks. One option is adding the money to a popular measure funding politically sacrosanct veterans programs.

"We are still waiting for answers from the administration to basic questions, such as what is needed right now, over the next five months to fight Zika," Crenshaw said.

Just one other GOP lawmaker, Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan, has endorsed Obama's $1.9 billion request. "Instead of working together to protect Americans, Washington has descended into another partisan fight," Buchanan said.

Still, it's clear the White House won't get anything approaching its $1.9 billion request for emergency money to battle Zika. Senate Republicans privately floated a $1.1 billion Zika-fighting measure, but House Republicans are likely to press for a lesser amount -- and require offsetting spending cuts elsewhere in the budget, an idea that the administration has not ruled out.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

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<![CDATA[Carrollton Man Diagnosed with Zika Virus: DCPH]]>Sat, 07 May 2016 00:14:33 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/virus+zika+puerto+rico.jpg

A human case of Zika virus has been confirmed Friday in Denton County, officials say.

Denton County Public Health said a Carrollton man who recently traveled to the Dominican Republic is battling the virus.

Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito.

This is the second confirmed case in Denton County, and health experts warn there will be more as summer approaches.

The virus has been linked to birth defects in other countries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. North Texans are urged to protect themselves against mosquitoes for protection.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[No MLB in Puerto Rico]]>Fri, 06 May 2016 15:59:23 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-85302246.jpg

The Miami Marlins will not play this season in Puerto Rico due to Zika virus concerns.

Miami was scheduled to host the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 30-31 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Puerto Rico. The series was set to honor Roberto Clemente, with Miami serving as the home team against the Hall of Famer's old club.

Following the announcement on Friday from Major League Baseball and the players' union, the games will now be played at Marlins Park.

This series was expected to be well-attended, with possible strong support for Miami. The last time the Marlins visited the island was back in 2010, when they were still known as the Florida Marlins. That time, they hosted the New York Mets, also drawing in large crowds. 

Puerto Rico and MLB have strong ties dating back decades. In addition to series like the 2010 "San Juan Series," Puerto Rico is a popular Winter League destination. Hiram Bithorn Stadium has also played host to World Baseball Classic games. It remains to be seen if this cancellation will lead to any problems between the league and the island.

Miami will still take part in a special game this year. The Marlins have a contest against the Atlanta Braves set to take place in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. This will be the first game ever played on a military base and is scheduled for July 3rd.



Photo Credit: Getty Images, file]]>
<![CDATA[Infected Mosquitoes Can't Transmit Zika Virus: Study]]>Wed, 04 May 2016 19:22:19 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-GettyImages-506977656%281%29.jpg

Infecting mosquitoes with a strain of bacteria reduced their ability to transmit the Zika virus, according to Brazilian researchers, NBC News reported.

Mosquitoes infected with the Wolbachia bacteria have been released in several countries including Australia, Brazil, Indonesia and Vietnam to help control dengue — and new findings are showing success with Zika. This raises hopes that it might block transmission of the virus.

The new study, by researchers at Brazil's Oswaldo Cruz Foundation and published in Cell Host & Microbe, takes advantage of the naturally occurring strain of Wolbachia, which live in insect cells and are found in 60 percent of common insects. The method involves inserting the bacteria into mosquito eggs, which pass the bacteria along to their offspring. 

After two weeks in the Zika study, mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia had fewer particles of the virus in their bodies and saliva - making them less able to infect humans with the virus. 

Researchers caution this strategy isn’t 100 percent effective and will not eliminate the virus. But it can be used as part of a control strategy.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[One Dead from Zika Complications in Puerto Rico]]>Fri, 29 Apr 2016 22:51:02 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/virus+zika+puerto+rico.jpgThere are new developments in the battle against the Zika virus. One person in Puerto Rico has died from complications caused by the virus. And there is a new test to diagnose Zika.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[A Look at How the Zika Virus Can Kill You]]>Fri, 29 Apr 2016 19:34:40 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/virus+zika+puerto+rico.jpg

The Zika virus is not usually thought of as a life-threatening virus, but it did kill a man in Puerto Rico. The man, in his 70s, is the first reported U.S. death from the virus, which is spreading across the Americas, according to NBC News. 

Zika can lead to complications like immune thrombocytopenic purpura, as in the case of the man in Puerto Rico. In cases like these, patients can suffer internal bleeding. 

The virus can also cause Guillain-Barre syndrome, severe birth defects and other dangerous nerve conditions in adults. 

There is no specific treatment for Zika infection, and there’s no known way to reverse damage done to a developing baby. A vaccine is in the works, but would be years away from the market.



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<![CDATA[Puerto Rico Reports 1st Zika Death in US]]>Fri, 29 Apr 2016 15:45:42 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Mosquito-AP_750626106311.jpg

Puerto Rico announced Friday that it has recorded the first Zika-related U.S. death amid an outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus in the U.S. territory. 

Health Secretary Ana Rius said the victim is a 70-year-old man from the San Juan metro area who died in late February. The U.S. territory is battling more than 700 Zika cases and seeks federal funds to help prevent an epidemic at a time of worsening economic crisis. 

Officials said the unidentified man recovered from initial Zika symptoms, but then developed a condition in which antibodies that formed in reaction to the Zika infection started attacking blood platelet cells. He died after suffering internal bleeding. 

Rius said the man died less than 24 hours after seeking help at a health center. She said three other cases of the condition known as severe thrombocytopenia have been reported in Puerto Rico, and that those patients recovered successfully. 

Three similar Zika-related deaths also have been recorded in the South American country of Colombia, said Tyler Sharp of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Zika-related deaths in adults are considered extremely rare. The virus causes only a mild and brief illness, at worst, in most people. But infections in pregnant women have been linked to a brain defect and fetal deaths, and have become an international public health concern. 

There have been 426 cases of Zika reported in the 50 U.S. states — all linked to travel to outbreak areas. But officials think it's likely some small clusters of Zika infections will occur in the U.S. when mosquito numbers boom. 

The virus is spreading quickly across Puerto Rico, where 89 pregnant women are infected with Zika. Rius said all 14 pregnant women who are infected and have given birth have healthy babies. 

Nineteen people have been hospitalized in Puerto Rico and at least four are believed to have developed a temporary paralysis condition known as Guillain-Barre because of Zika. 

President Barack Obama has requested $1.9 billion in emergency money to fight Zika virus, but Congress has not acted. 

Other Caribbean also are struggling with a Zika outbreak. The government of the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe announced a Zika epidemic on Friday with 2,100 suspected cases.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Zika Was in Haiti Before Brazil: Study ]]>Wed, 27 Apr 2016 18:45:34 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZikaMosquitoAP_791168702393.jpg

A new study shows the Zika virus was circulating in Haiti in 2014, long before it became obvious that it was spreading in Brazil, NBC News reported. 

The team checked out three mysterious infections in Haiti caused by the Zika virus. Their study raises questions about when and how Zika arrived in the Americas.

"We know that the virus was present in Haiti in December of 2014," said Dr. Glenn Morris, a professor of medicine and the director of the University of Florida's Emerging Pathogens Institute. "And, based on molecular studies, it may have been present in Haiti even before that date." 

Earlier this year, international experts used a "genetic clock" to show the Zika virus has changed. And it very closely matches a strain that circulated in French Polynesia in 2013. What's not clear is why it's now being seen to cause disease. Tests show it has mutated, but it's not yet clear if the mutations somehow make it more virulent.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Dallas County Prepares For Zika Virus]]>Mon, 25 Apr 2016 19:01:36 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika+Virus3.jpg

During a briefing Monday, Dallas County public health officials updated their plans for the arrival of the Zika virus.

To date, six human cases have the virus have been reported in Dallas County.

Five of the cases involve people who traveled to countries affected by Zika.

The sixth person received the illness from a sexual partner.

The Dallas County Public Health Lab is responsible for 12 counties and has completed more than 200 specimen analysis, including several which have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control.

Several pregnant women have been tested for the possibility of Zika, but health officials declined to elaborate.

"Mosquito season hasn't officially started and if we've already processed over 200 specimens in our lab, that number could just continue to grow and quite frankly be outragous," says Erikka Neroes, public information officer for Dallas County Health and Human Services.

Symptoms related to Zika are rarely severe, but researchers have found a link between Zika and serious birth defects, including microcephaly.

The county will use mosquito traps designed to catch the aedes aegypti mosquito, which are the ones that carry Zika.

"Those mosquitoes can be very aggressive and they can bite multiple times, so they'll take a blood meals from possibly multiple hosts which can spread the disease really fast," says Spencer Lockwood of Dallas County Mosquito Control.

Residents in targeted neighborhoods, including those with a high population of people who travel to the Caribbean, Central and South Americas, have received door hangers reminding them of personal protection against mosquito bites.

Officials urge everyone to use mosquito repellent and dunks.

"Even if we don't have Zika, we still have West Nile virus, so you still to constantly be aware of mosquitoes and trying to prevent them," says Lockwood.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[CDC Confirms Sexual Transmission of Zika in Dallas]]>Thu, 14 Apr 2016 22:28:15 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-509588626.jpgA Dallas man who contracted Zika in Venezuela transferred it to a male sexual partner after returning home in January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Thursday.

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<![CDATA[CDC Confirms Male-to-Male Sexual Transmission of Zika in Dallas]]>Thu, 14 Apr 2016 22:28:47 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-509588626.jpg

A Dallas man who contracted Zika in Venezuela transferred it to a male sexual partner after returning home in January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Thursday.

The case was identified by a local health care provider earlier this year and investigated by Dallas County Health and Human Services before being referred to the CDC.

"At this time, there had been one prior case report of sexual transmission of Zika virus. The present case report indicates Zika virus can be transmitted through anal sex, as well as vaginal sex," the CDC said in a statement Thursday.

Two days after the man returned to Dallas from a one-week trip abroad, he began to show symptoms consistent with Zika infection — subjective fever, pruritic rash on his upper body and face, and conjunctivitis lasting three days, the CDC said.

During the investigation into the infection, officials learned the man had unprotected anal sex one day before and one day after the onset of symptoms. Seven days after first showing symptoms, the man's partner began to show symptoms of Zika infection as well.

"On Day 7, patient B developed a subjective fever, myalgia, headache, lethargy, and malaise; a few days later, he developed a slightly pruritic rash on his torso and arms, small joint arthritis of his hands and feet, and conjunctivitis," the CDC said.

After a week, all of the symptoms had subsided.

The man who traveled to Venezuela said multiple people living in the area he visited were experiencing symptoms of Zika infections. The man's monogamous partner in Dallas had never traveled to Venezuela and has not traveled to any area with known cases of Zika.

Dallas County health officials sent specimen samples to the CDC for analysis, and it later confirmed the man who traveled to Venezuela had contracted both Zika and dengue, while his partner had only contracted Zika.

The department's director called the developments a game changer.

"Surveillance is going to be on two fronts - one in terms of individuals who travel...and get a mosquito bite and those who travel and engage in sexual activity," said Dallas County health director Zach Thompson.

Thompson said confirmation that Zika can be sexually transmitted should put pressure on federal lawmakers to approve emergency funding for accine research.

"We need a vaccine," Thompson said. "The funding that's being held up in congress is going to hold up whether or not you can do the research. Right now, unless congress kind of moves on giving President Obama what he asks for, there may be some delay in seeing Zika funding."

Further information about the patients is not yet known and is not expected to be released, citing privacy concerns.

Zika virus infection has been linked to increased risk for Guillain-Barré syndrome and adverse fetal outcomes, including congenital microcephaly.



Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[CDC Says Zika Connected to Birth, Brain Defects]]>Wed, 13 Apr 2016 16:51:11 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika-sign-st-maarten2.jpgThe Zika virus, which is spreading through much of the Americas, causes microcephaly and other fetal brain defects, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientists say in a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Photo Credit: Brian Curtis, NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Denton County Confirms First Case of Zika Virus]]>Tue, 12 Apr 2016 16:29:37 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/3-10_mosquito.jpg

Denton County health officials confirmed Wednesday the county's first case of Zika virus.

The patient, whose name and personal information are not being disclosed, is a female who traveled internationally in January to a country where the virus is active, according to Denton County Public Health.

So far, there are no confirmed reports of Zika transmission by mosquitoes in the United States.

Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week, Dallas County health officials said.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.



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<![CDATA[Pregnant Moms Weigh Risks of Travel Amid Zika Concerns]]>Wed, 06 Apr 2016 17:44:43 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZIKA_GettyImages-509400338.jpg

Like most young couples, Rhonda Spinks and her husband are thrilled to be expecting.

"This is our first baby and, of course, when it's your first, you're extra cautious," said Spinks, who was faced with a work trip to Puerto Rico.  

She said it was a tough choice, even though some say Zika risks may not be as high as some perceive.

"I do think the Zika virus is overblown. It is much less and we don't know if it causes microcephaly, like they are saying," said Dr. Larry Altshuler, an internist at Southwestern Regional Medical Center.

Microcephaly, or small head syndrome, is exactly what expectant moms fear.

Researchers are still learning more about the ways people contract the virus.

"Any type of transmission from body fluids; so kissing can do that; sex can do that; a blood transfusion can do that. But the vast majority is going to come from mosquito bite," said Dr. Altshuler, who adds symptoms aren't always obvious. 

Parents could have cold or flu symptoms, fever or rash.

Still, he says it can't hurt to be cautious.

"Until the CDC and World Health Organization say 'okay, this is what we found,' perhaps you should stay away," said Dr. Altshuler.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Congressman Discourages Travel to Olympics Amid Zika Concerns]]>Fri, 01 Apr 2016 23:01:49 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZikaMosquitoAP_791168702393.jpg

U.S. Congressman Micheal Burgess told NBC 5 people should not travel to Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics because of the Zika virus outbreak.

“I’m not speaking from the government, from the CDC, from my committee, but why in the world would you travel to an area where Zika virus is a problem? I’m talking about Central or South America. The cases that we’ve had here in Texas, if I’m not mistaken, all have been individuals who have traveled to an area where the virus is endemic and then brought it back here. So please be careful with your travel. I think that is the number one issue,” said the congressman.

“Let me be politically incorrect. Look, I was around in 1980 when Jimmy Carter canceled the Olympics for our athletes. It was a devastating consequence, but I don’t see how you ignore this public health threat with our young athletes going to that area. I just don’t see how you do it,” he said.

When asked if he was recommending people not go the Olympic games, Congressman Burgess said, “that would be my advice. I know, that’s not the CDC’s position, that’s not the state department’s position, but when I call those two agencies, you get this, ‘it’s a state department decision, it’s a CDC decision.’ No one is making the decision. If I was making the decision? Don’t go. Skip the Olympics.”

You can watch the entire interview this Sunday at 8:40 a.m. on Lone Star Politics on NBC 5.

Congressman Michael Burgess is a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives representing Texas's 26th congressional district.

He practiced medicine in North Texas for nearly three decades and sits on a health subcommittee.



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<![CDATA[State Health Officials Urged to Get Ready For Zika]]>Fri, 01 Apr 2016 17:32:28 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zikAP_1604011917333513.jpg

The government urged health officials around the country Friday to get ready now in case there are outbreaks of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in the U.S. this summer.

A Zika epidemic has been sweeping through Latin America and the Caribbean, and officials think it's likely some small clusters of Zika will occur in the U.S. when mosquito numbers boom.

At a "Zika Summit" on Friday, experts prodded some 300 state and local officials gathered at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters to make Zika response plans now.

When West Nile virus — transmitted by a different mosquito — moved through the U.S. about 15 years ago, health officials were caught flat-footed, noted Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

"This is an opportunity to get ahead of the curve," he told the summit's attendees.

The Zika virus causes only a mild and brief illness, at worst, in most people. But in the last year, infections in pregnant women have been strongly linked to fetal deaths and to potentially devastating birth defects, mostly in Brazil.

The virus is spread mainly by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which also live in parts of the U.S. It was thought to be mainly in the South but the CDC revised its map this week, showing the mosquito has been found in parts of the Midwest and Northeast.

Officials don't expect Zika to be a big problem, though, in the U.S. for a number of reasons, including the widespread use of air conditioning and screens. The Zika mosquito likes to bite indoors. They think the clusters may be small and surface only in a few states — most likely Florida and Texas. But they don't know for sure.

So far, there have been no Zika infections in the U.S. caught from mosquitoes. More than 300 illnesses have been reported, all linked to travel to Zika outbreak regions.

About 350 additional cases have been reported in U.S. territories, most of them in Puerto Rico, where mosquitoes are already spreading the virus. Together, dozens or even hundreds of births in the 50 states and territories could be affected in devastating ways by Zika, said Dr. Edward McCabe of the March of Dimes, who spoke at the summit.

"We have a few short weeks to stop the Zika virus from gaining a foothold," McCabe said.

During the summit, state and local officials were encouraged to map where the Zika mosquito lives and breeds in the state and which insecticides would work best in their area.

The Zika response will likely mean workers will go door to door, sometimes asking to go on properties and even spray. That's different from the truck- and aerial-spraying seen in conventional mosquito eradication efforts.

It will be a kind of campaign not seen in this country since efforts to wipe out yellow fever in the 1950s and 1960s, and it will take different kinds of equipment, approaches and more staff, CDC officials said.

Local health officials at the summit said the work ahead is daunting, especially since it's not clear where they're going to get the money. And health departments are already struggling financially, said Dr. Jeff Duchin, a Seattle-based county public health official who was at the meeting representing the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

"Our priority is to make sure we have enough resources to meet the threat," Duchin said.

Paul Ettestad, New Mexico's public health veterinarian, said some of the state's counties only have a handful of people doing mosquito control work — the same people who also handle snow removal in the winter

"They don't have much," Ettestad said

The Obama administration in February requested nearly $2 billion in emergency funding for Zika response work. Congressional leaders have not formally voted on the request.

One of the things money is needed for, officials said, is better and faster blood tests for Zika. Now, it takes between a few days to a week to get results.

If Zika starts spreading in the U.S, women of childbearing age are going to be "intensely concerned," predicted Dr. Bill Foege, a former CDC director and expert on global health. "They're going to want to know if they are infected and they're not going to want to wait a week." 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



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<![CDATA[U.S. Athletes Should Skip Olympics Over Zika: Rep. Burgess]]>Fri, 01 Apr 2016 16:09:49 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/michael-burgess-kxas-lsp.jpg

Rep. Michael Burgess urged American athletes Friday to skip the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Brazil because of concerns over the Zika virus.

“Let me be politically incorrect,” Burgess, R-Lewisville, said during a taping of Lone Star Politics on KXAS-TV (NBC5). “I was around in 1980 when Jimmy Carter canceled the Olympics for our athletes. It was a devastating consequence, but I don’t see how you ignore this public health threat with our young athletes going to that area.”

Click here to read more from our media partners at The Dallas Morning News.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[5th Case of Zika Virus Reported in Dallas County]]>Fri, 01 Apr 2016 17:40:54 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zancudos-aedes-aegypty-zika.jpg

Dallas County Health and Human Services reported the fifth case of Zika virus in the county Friday morning.

DCHHS officials confirmed that a 67-year-old Irving resident who traveled to Colombia tested positive for the virus.

Officials said the patient's symptoms have since resolved.

For medical confidentiality, DCHHS did not provide any identifying information.



Photo Credit: EFE]]>
<![CDATA[CDC Issues New Zika Guidelines for Pregnancy Planning]]>Fri, 25 Mar 2016 17:08:07 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika-virus-color1.jpg

Due to mounting evidence supporting a link between the Zika virus and microcephaly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance this week related to pregnancy planning and preventing the transmission of the virus.

Guidance for Pregnant and Reproductive-Age Women

For women and men who have been diagnosed with Zika virus or who have symptoms of Zika including fever, rash, joint pain or red eyes after possible exposure to Zika virus, CDC recommends healthcare providers advise:

  • Women wait at least 8 weeks after their symptoms first appeared before trying to get pregnant.
  • Men wait at least 6 months after their symptoms first appeared to have unprotected sex.
  • In making these recommendations, we considered the longest known risk period for these categories. We then allowed for three times the known period of time.

Those who have shown no symptoms of Zika but who have been exposed to the virus through travel or intercourse are encouraged to wait eight weeks before attempting to conceive.

Those who have shown no symptoms of Zika who live in an area with active transmission of the virus are recommended to speak with their healthcare providers about their pregnancy plans.

"These are very complex, deeply personal decisions, and we are communicating the potential risks of Zika virus infection during pregnancy for people who live in areas with active transmission. We are encouraging health care providers to have conversations with women and their partners about pregnancy planning, their individual circumstances and strategies to prevent unintended pregnancies," the CDC said in a news release.

Updated Guidance for Preventing Sexual Transmission of Zika

"The recommendations for men who live in or travel to an area with active Zika virus transmission who have a pregnant partner remain the same: CDC recommends that men with a pregnant partner should use condoms every time they have sex or not have sex for the duration of the pregnancy. To be effective, condoms must be used correctly from start to finish, every time during sex. This includes vaginal, anal or oral (mouth-to-penis) sex," the CDC said.

The CDC changed the time frame for men and their non-pregnant partners based available information about how long the virus remains in semen and the risks associated with Zika based on whether or not men had symptoms of infection.

  • Couples with men who have confirmed Zika or symptoms of Zika should consider using condoms or not having sex for at least 6 months after symptoms begin. This includes men who live in and men who traveled to areas with Zika.
  • Couples with men who traveled to an area with Zika but did not develop symptoms of Zika should consider using condoms or not having sex for at least 8 weeks after their return in order to minimize risk.
  • Couples with men who live in an area with Zika but have not developed symptoms might consider using condoms or not having sex while there is active Zika transmission in the area.

The CDC said couples who do not want to get pregnant should use the most effective contraceptive methods available. Those who are trying to get pregnant should talk with their doctor.

Increasing Access to Contraception in Zika Transmission Areas

Earlier this month, a top doctor with the CDC, Dr. Tom Frieden, said they expect hundreds of thousands of people in Puerto Rico will contract Zika this year, including thousands of pregnant women.

"Because of the potential for Zika to affect pregnant women and their fetuses, strategies to prevent unintended pregnancy are a critical part of current efforts to prevent Zika-related health effects," the CDC said. "Based on Puerto Rico's experience, CDC has identified considerations and challenges in reducing unintended pregnancies in areas with active Zika transmission."

According to the CDC, about two-thirds of Puerto Rican pregnancies are unintended. Further, researchers estimated 138,000 women in Puerto Rico may be at risk of an unintended pregnancy because they aren't using birth control.

In areas where Zika transmission is known to occur, such as Puerto Rico, the CDC said women and their partners who do not want to get pregnant should consistently make use of effective birth control methods.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is coordinating with federal, local, and private partners to identify resources to support increased access in Puerto Rico to the most effective forms of contraception.

"HRSA has 20 health center grantees that operate 84 sites in Puerto Rico, which serve over 330,000 people, including nearly 80,000 women ages 15 to 45. HHS is exploring possible expansion of services at these centers, which currently include prenatal care and other voluntary family planning services," the CDC said. "OPA is working to provide additional funds for contraceptive services, as well as facilitate the training of providers in long-acting reversible contraception methods.

Earlier this month, about 100 CDC staff members were on the ground in Puerto Rico handing out repellent and condoms ahead of the island's rainy season.



Photo Credit: NBC News]]>
<![CDATA[Elmo Teaches Latin American Kids About Zika]]>Thu, 24 Mar 2016 18:46:20 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ElmoRaya-GettyImages-456230810%281%29.jpg

Sesame Street has joined forces with the Pan American Health Organization to teach kids how to avoid contracting the Zika virus, NBC News reports.

Two 30-second videos feature Elmo and Raya in Spanish, English and Portuguese. The two discuss ways to ward off mosquitoes, including covering and sealing water containers.

Sesame Street also created three printables to post around the house to remind children to close screen windows, cover standing water and to wear long sleeves whenever possible.

All the videos and posters end with the same message: "If the mosquito doesn't bite, goodbye Zika!"



Photo Credit: Getty Images for Global Citizen
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<![CDATA[Congress Breaks for Easter Without Funding Zika Fight]]>Wed, 23 Mar 2016 20:31:18 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZikaMosquitoAP_791168702393.jpg

Congress left Washington Wednesday afternoon without voting to appropriate any of the $1.9 billion the Obama administration has asked for to fight Zika, NBC News reported.

Republicans say they don’t want to spend new money if they don’t have to. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., told reporters this week that there is money in the pipeline “that is not going to Ebola” that can fund the fight against Zika.

National health directors say that money cannot be redirected because it is already accounted for, as researchers run trials of Ebola vaccines and treatments in West Africa.

Zika continues to spread across Latin America and the Caribbean. Cases are piling up in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and southern states from Texas to Florida are bracing for smaller outbreaks as mosquito season approaches.  



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[In Fight Against Zika, Brazil Battles Neglect, Cash Crunch]]>Fri, 18 Mar 2016 06:09:13 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-508438764.jpg

In May, as the first cases of the Zika virus were being detected in Brazil, Rossandra Oliveira stopped receiving a critical tool she needed to do her job: insecticide.

Monthly shipments from the government to her office at the epicenter of the outbreak stopped. Oliveira, who manages mosquito control for this city of 400,000, was left helpless. The shortages continued even after President Dilma Rousseff's government declared the mosquito-borne virus a national health emergency Nov. 11.

It wasn't an isolated case. For several months last year cities and states on the front lines of the epidemic in Brazil's northeast ran out of larvicide, and supplies nationwide had to be rationed, according to interviews with local health officials and documents obtained by The Associated Press from prosecutors investigating the shortages.

The lack of larvicide is only one of a string of public health failings crippling Brazil's ability to manage the Zika outbreak and the surge in rare birth defects thought to be linked to it. A weeklong tour by AP of several cities and towns in the northeast found public hospitals starved for funding and local health officials scrambling to care for the stricken babies.

"In 19 years of working in environmental control I've never seen so much disorganization as I'm seeing now," said Oliveira, whose team of 169 health inspectors in Campina Grande had to carry out door-to-door inspections without the insecticide during the shortage. "We're paying the consequences for having underestimated the enemy."

The immediate culprit is Brazil's deepest recession since the 1930s, which is forcing belt-tightening across Latin America's largest economy. But experts say the collective failure to tackle corruption, crushing inequality and chronic underfunding of the public health system is also to blame.

If addressing such longstanding scourges weren't a steep enough challenge, Rousseff must now do so while fighting for her political survival. On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of Brazilians poured into the streets to demand she resign over a widening corruption scandal now implicating former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. On Thursday, she entrenched behind her political mentor, swearing in Silva as her chief of staff.

Health Minister Marcelo Castro was at a loss to explain what happened.

"If there was this shortage — which I cannot attest to whether there was or not — it was for a short time, and was an isolated incident that does not affect the overall situation," he said in an interview from his office in Brasilia that looks onto the striking modernist presidential palace.

But documents obtained by the AP and interviews with local health officials indicate that the shortages lasted for several months and rationing nationwide occurred between August and October, when many women were pregnant and, unbeknownst to them at the time, potentially transmitting Zika to their unborn babies.

The problems occurred despite an alert from the World Health Organization urging nations to strengthen mosquito control in the face of a surge in dengue and chikungunya — viruses transmitted by the same Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries Zika.

In a technical note sent in September to the 185 municipalities in Pernambuco, the state's top disease control official even discussed substitutes, such as using household bleach to kill mosquito larvae, or small fish to eat them.

Castro said the reported problems coincided with a cooler period of reduced breeding and larvicide shipments have been normalized since he took office in October. He said the most effective way to fight mosquitoes isn't with chemicals but by eliminating the breeding sites lurking inside people's homes — an effort reinforced by Rousseff's decision to deploy the military to carry out house-to-house inspections.

While the effectiveness of almost any strategy to eradicate pesky mosquitoes is debated by some experts, Brazilian authorities consider larvicide an important part of their toolkit, especially when eliminating breeding in makeshift cisterns that proliferate in the northeast due to a lack of reliable running water.

The pesticide's disappearance, however temporary, is a sign of deep-seated government neglect in a battle that, in the tropics, has to be waged every day, said Dr. Artur Timerman, a virologist and president of Brazil's Society of Dengue and Arbovirus.

"In a war like the one Brazil is facing, any gap has serious, direct consequences," said Timerman.

While Brazilian scientists have won international praise for quickly identifying a possible link between Zika and microcephaly, authorities so far have been unable to leverage those discoveries into public health victories.

Instead of focusing on decades of government failures, Rousseff has been appealing to national pride. The T-shirt she wore recently to kick off a nationwide clean-up campaign bore the slogan "A mosquito is not stronger than an entire country." It's a strategy that for weeks seemed to have succeeded in diverting the nation's attention from the debilitating economic and political crisis.

"My entire government is engaged in dealing with this emergency," she told lawmakers last month in her annual state of the union address. "There will be no shortage of resources so we can reverse this Zika epidemic in the quickest and most adequate way possible."

But resources are tight.

Ground zero for the epidemic is Pernambuco and Paraiba, in Brazil's impoverished northeast. Since Zika was first detected in Brazil, the two states have accounted for over 40 percent of the 6,480 reported cases of babies born with shrunken heads, a rare condition known as microcephaly. While only 863 of those suspected cases have been confirmed, and 1,349 discarded as wrongly diagnosed, the number dwarfs the 200 reported previously by Brazil, leading researchers to investigate possible links between the virus' spread and the birth defects.

In Monteiro, a dusty town in the parched northeast, the mayor declared a health emergency just before Christmas as the number of walk-ins to the sole emergency care hospital more than tripled to 5,178 patients — equal to almost a fifth of the town's population. In one particularly frenzied 24-hour period, the hospital burned through a month's supply of pain killers, with many patients suffering from Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses receiving treatment in overcrowded hallways.

"It was a very sad New Year's. There were no parties, no fireworks. Every family had at least one person sick," recalls Ana Paula Barbosa Oliveira, the hospital's pregnant director, who worked non-stop throughout the panic until falling ill herself with what she feared was Zika.

"I was working so much that I thought the mosquito wouldn't catch up with me," she said, half-joking to lighten the burden of having to wait months to find out if her blood test was positive for Zika.

The clinic was forced to handle the stampede of patients amid a collapse in funding. For 15 months, after the state's governor inaugurated the clinic, he stopped sending the checks to keep the facility and a regional ambulance service running.

The town sued last year and the state government was ordered by a judge to resume payments, which account for about a third of the hospital's funding. But over $1 million in back payments remains uncollected.

Paraiba's health secretary said it assisted local authorities during the health emergency with two visits to the town. But when pressed repeatedly by email and phone the secretariat didn't provide further details.

Corruption may also be playing a role. In Paraiba, prosecutors have 96 ongoing investigations into local officials embezzling federal funds meant to build clinics, buy medications and maintain health facilities in the state. Castro said he was unaware of any investigations. But the region's long history of backward politics and awe-striking poverty make it fertile ground for abuse.

"Paraiba is national champion in infant mortality," said Jose Godoy, the federal prosecutor leading the investigations into the alleged abuses. "If basic maternal care is difficult, just imagine how we're going to be able to work with babies born with microcephaly."

The city-run Pedro I hospital in Campina Grande is another case in point of government neglect. There, 29 babies with microcephaly are receiving early intellectual and physical stimulation that can make a significant contribution to their long-term development. The mayor's request for $1.5 million to the Health Ministry to buy an MRI scanner has so far gone unmet.

Well before the Zika outbreak, Brazil's public health care system was on life support, the result of years of mismanagement, underfunding, and more recently, the economic crisis after a decade-long spending spree fueled by China's thirst for South America's commodities. In Rio de Janeiro, more than 20 hospitals and clinics had to close for several days over Christmas as the government fell behind on salaries and even basic supplies like surgical gloves and cotton balls ran out.

The situation now is getting worse. As part of across-the-board budget cuts in February, the Health Ministry was down about $650 million, or almost 3 percent of planned spending.

In Recife, a city of 1.6 million, more than 300 babies have been reported born with microcephaly — the largest number in the nation. There too, a number of health providers told the AP they're financially strapped. The Altino Ventura Foundation, for example, runs a state-of-the-art rehab clinic built with a donation from the German government that treats 135 microcephaly babies.

The nonprofit, which for 30 years has been geared to treating the poor, says the Pernambuco government began falling behind on payments last May, and as recently as February owed more than $3 million. Some of the money from federal outlays was transferred to the state's coffers but never passed along as required, according to public expense tracking records provided by the foundation.

After the AP asked Pernambuco's health secretary about the debt, authorities began to settle outstanding payments.

In the interim, half-built concrete pillars signal an abandoned construction project, with workers parking their cars among tall weeds. The foundation has cut by half the normal number of eye surgeries it performs each month, delayed payments to its own suppliers and for the first time is seeking loans from banks to avoid more drastic cuts.

"Brazil is going through a financial and moral crisis," said Bernardo Cavalcanti, son of the foundation's founder and a member of its board. "The worst part is the light at the end of the tunnel hasn't yet appeared. Things are very bleak still and we have no idea what's going to happen."

Recife's health secretary Jailson Correia shares the same sense of frustration. A trained pediatrician with a doctorate in infectious diseases, he quickly assembled a "situation room" adjacent to his ramshackle office when the first cases of microcephaly appeared, using push-pin tacks to map the disease's spread neighborhood by neighborhood.

On Nov. 24, he requested $7.5 million in emergency funding in a meeting with Castro to intensify mosquito-control efforts and provide better care to the sick babies. Despite a receptive ear, only $300,000 arrived.

The insult was double, he says, when Rousseff visited the state a few weeks later to cut the ribbon on a new highway. Until additional money comes, he hopes she never returns.

"It's amazing how a 1-centimeter mosquito is unmasking so many of our problems," said Correia. "I'm not saying a crisis of this proportion is welcome, but perhaps it will finally make us reflect on what kind of society we want to live in."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Homeowners Combat Mosquitoes Amid Zika Virus Concerns]]>Wed, 16 Mar 2016 18:47:28 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZikaMosquitoAP_791168702393.jpgIn light of the Zika virus, health officials in Tarrant and Dallas counties are urging homeowners to prepare for mosquito season.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Homeowners Combat Mosquitoes Amid Zika Virus Concerns]]>Wed, 16 Mar 2016 18:48:04 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZikaMosquitoAP_791168702393.jpg

In light of the Zika virus, health officials in Tarrant and Dallas counties are urging homeowners to prepare for mosquito season.

Both counties have had confirmed cases of the virus, which is spread through a mosquito common to North Texas -- the Aedes.

“It doesn't take much water at all for a mosquito to start reproducing,” said Trey McCord, who owns Mosquito Squad in Dallas.

Given the warm temperatures, McCord’s work started a month earlier than usual this year.

Since February, customers have been calling to have their properties assessed and treated for mosquitoes, some residents requesting weekly sprays.

In between visits, McCord advises them to regularly remove any standing water from their backyards.

“Water in gutters, water in drains,” he explained. “Any little bit can increase the mosquito activity in our area.”

Tarrant County recently confirmed its third case of the Zika virus; Dallas County has had four cases.

Both counties have released reminders to residents to cover up, use bug spray and to be vigilant of potential breeding zones around their homes.

“If we do nothing, there are mosquitoes everywhere,” said homeowner, Valerie Herrin.

Herrin’s Lake Highlands home is adjacent to a flood plain that attracts mosquitoes every summer.

After weekly treatments failed to deter them, she installed an automatic spray system that turns on twice a day.

“Two times in the morning and twice in the evening,” Herrin said. “I don't want to have to worry about rubbing my kids down every single time I walk outside.”

Tarrant County’s health department released a video to its residents to help with treatments at home.

"We're expecting to have a big growth year this year," said McCord.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Travel OK to High-Elevation Cities in Zika Countries: DCD]]>Fri, 11 Mar 2016 21:20:31 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZikaMosquitoAP_791168702393.jpg

The U.S. government revised its Zika travel warnings Friday, saying it's OK for pregnant women to travel to Mexico City and other places at high elevation in outbreak regions.

The kind of mosquito that spreads the Zika virus is rare at higher elevations because of the lack of humidity and other conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infections from Zika or the related dengue virus haven't been seen high up.

Since mid-January, the health agency has advised pregnant women to avoid travel to areas with Zika outbreaks because the virus may be linked to a surge of birth defects in Brazil. The list has grown to about three dozen destinations, most in Latin America or the Caribbean.

Friday's revision excludes any part of those countries above 6,500 feet (2,000 meters).

CDC officials insisted science drove the change, but acknowledged there were concerns that overly broad travel warnings might unnecessarily hamper trade and tourism.

"I suspect several countries will be quite pleased" by the revision, said Dr. Martin Cetron, who leads CDC's division of global migration and quarantine.

Five of the countries have large cities or sizeable areas at high altitudes, including Mexico City, Bolivia's La Paz and Colombia's Bogota.

Mexico Health Department's Dr. Cuitlahuac Ruiz Matuz said authorities there had objected to a blanket travel advisory for the country before it was issued, and had lobbied CDC for a change.

"Now they are correcting things a little bit," Ruiz said.

He argued that the CDC should be even more specific and report where Zika has been detected. There have been 143 confirmed cases in Mexico, 128 in the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca. The remaining 15 are spread over six other states.

Besides the capital, Mexico has other large cities such as Puebla, Toluca and Guanajuato and the popular tourist destination of San Cristobal de las Casas at elevations above 6,500 feet.

Experts think most people infected with Zika virus don't get sick. And those that do usually develop mild symptoms — fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. But the unexpected numbers of birth defects in Zika outbreak areas of Brazil have raised alarms.

An estimated 40 million U.S. travelers went to Zika outbreak destinations last year, including about a half million pregnant women, CDC officials estimate. The CDC advises all travelers to Zika areas to use insect repellent and take other steps to avoid mosquito bites. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[CDC: Puerto Rico To See Thousands More Zika Cases]]>Thu, 10 Mar 2016 17:38:43 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/mosquito+tray1.jpg

The top doctor at the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention predicted Thursday that hundreds of thousands of people will contract the Zika virus in Puerto Rico this year, including "thousands" of pregnant women.

Dr. Tom Frieden briefed reporters after a trip to the island where he worked with Puerto Rican health officials to assess the situation.

He warned that Puerto Rico's rainy season is coming, which will lead to a higher number of mosquito-transmitted infections.

About 100 CDC staff members are on the ground in Puerto Rico, handing out repellent and condoms.

They're also testing pesticides and will install window screens at clinics and doctors offices.

The CDC director is asking Congress for money that he says would help prevent, treat and diagnose the Zika virus, which has been linked to a birth defect called microcephaly and is expected to spread in the United States this spring.

Puerto Rican natives in North Texas are watching the situation back in their native country closely.

At the Adobo Café in Irving, residents follow the headlines and keep in contact with loved ones.

"It is really dangerous, the mosquito. We got mosquitoes the whole year, but that kind of mosquito, it's concerning," said café manager Edwin Martinez.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Spring Break Could End in More Zika Cases]]>Wed, 09 Mar 2016 23:42:39 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/international+arrivals+dfw+airport.jpg

Spring break could end with a big spike in the number of imported cases of the Zika virus in North Texas.

"It is possible to bring Zika home back into the United States," said Tarrant County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja. "And after spring break, I mean, we've got thousands and thousands of people visiting all over the place, so that can happen."

Travelers at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport could soon start seeing signs from Tarrant County Public Health, which feature a smartphone code that links to information about the virus.

"We're in conversations with all kinds of public locations and we're trying to get these out to wherever we can," said Taneja.

Dallas Love Field doesn't offer international flights, but does offer information about the virus on its website.

Dallas County Health and Human Services will soon start going door-to-door in selected neighborhoods, passing out information about the virus.

"We're going to be looking at poverty in those ZIP codes, as well as other areas where we're seeing travelers coming back from those endemic countries," said Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson.

Spring breakers and others traveling from countries where the Zika virus is being transmitted are urged to continue wearing mosquito repellent here in North Texas.

"We want to make sure that you don't pass it on to the mosquitoes," said Thompson.

"Even if you may not have any symptoms," added Taneja, "the virus may be circulating in your blood, so if you get bit by mosquitoes, it can then get into the mosquito population here and start spreading to other individuals."



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[WHO: New Ways of Fighting Zika Needed After Dengue Failures]]>Wed, 09 Mar 2016 16:27:45 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-507329998-zika-virus.jpg

The World Health Organization says that traditional insecticide spraying has had no significant impact in slowing dengue, raising major questions about how officials might stop the spread of the Zika virus, also spread by mosquitoes.

At the conclusion of a three-day Zika research and development meeting on Wednesday, WHO's Marie-Paule Kieny said that "evidence is missing" that the classical ways of fighting dengue have made any substantial dent in cases. She says the same challenge might apply to Zika.

"Everything that was done in the country to control (mosquitoes) apparently didn't work," said Jorge Kalil, director of the Butantan Institute in Sao Paolo, Brazil, who attended the meeting. "The problem right now is it's very difficult to fight the (mosquito), there are billions and billions of insects."

Kalil said Brazilian officials may try a more targeted approach calling for more involvement from villages and individuals. Kalil was also optimistic that the coming winter season might help reduce mosquito populations.

Kieny said insecticide spraying and other techniques of mosquito control — some that have been used for decades — "haven't been able to interrupt the transmission of dengue," and it's not known whether such methods would work with Zika.

"Certainly it is worth continuing to try to use this method for the lack of other interventions, but what the scientists said is that there is an urgent need to also put in place studies to evaluate whether it has a benefit or not," Kieny said.

Brazilian authorities have tried to fight mosquitoes for decades, such as with techniques like deploying insecticide-sprayers in colored suits in rural areas or sending out advisers to help city residents identify and root out their breeding places in homes.

Kieny also noted another possible complication: that other mosquito species beyond Aedes aegypti might spread Zika. She said that while scientists have observed that other mosquito species can carry the virus, it's unclear if they can actually infect people.

Kieny said experts at the meeting discussed whether innovative methods like using genetically modified mosquitoes might be necessary to stop the outbreak, but noted that "extreme rigor" must be used in evaluating such new tools.

Last month, WHO declared the explosive spread of Zika in the Americas to be a global emergency, due to its link to the spike in the number of babies born with abnormally small heads and the rise in a rare neurological syndrome that can cause paralysis and death. Most people who catch Zika only experience mild symptoms like fever, skin rash and muscle pain. There is currently no licensed treatment or vaccine.

So far, Zika has triggered outbreaks in 41 countries, although confirmed cases linking Zika to babies with birth defects have only been seen in Brazil and French Polynesia. Nine countries have reported a spike in cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological condition that typically affects people after infections.

Kieny said vaccine development is still at an early stage and that although the most advanced candidates are still months away from preliminary trials, a Zika vaccine is "technologically feasible" based on the development of other vaccines for related diseases like dengue and Japanese encephalitis.

She said work is being done by more than 30 companies to develop a better diagnostic Zika test, since current tests often mix up Zika and dengue infections.
 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Tarrant County Confirms 3rd Zika Case]]>Wed, 09 Mar 2016 18:38:54 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika-home-care-kit-tcph.jpg

Two more cases of Zika virus have been confirmed in Tarrant County, bringing the total positive cases in the county to three.

"There's really no local risk of transmission at this point," said Vinny Taneja, director of public health for Tarrant County.

According to Taneja, the cases were imported into the United States after the patients traveled internationally in late January, early February. The first patient traveled to Puerto Rico while the second traveled to El Salvador. 

Test results for both took longer to process because their samples were sent to labs only available outside the region. It was not until February that Tarrant County was able to establish testing labs within this area.

"I think the entire country was sending tests to either their state or the CDC lab," explained Taneja, "So, sometimes it takes awhile when there's a lot of backlog."

As a result of the increase in cases, Taneja and his team have launched a new effort in hopes of stopping the virus from spreading further in North Texas. They've created Zika Home Care Kits for people currently under evaluation for the virus in Tarrant County.

"We wanted to create a very easy to carry education tool," said Taneja. "The idea is that we would visit with these individuals and talk about preventative measures." 

The kits include a safety checklist, bug spray, chemicals to kill mosquito larvae and condoms-to prevent sexual transmission of the virus.  

During wetter months, Taneja believe it's important to take extra precaution. The Aedes mosquito, which can carry the virus, breeds quickly in standing water throughout North Texas.

"You need to protect yourself against mosquito bites," said Taneja. "If they don't have the educationthat they might be able to transmit it to the mosquitos and to their families, that's where the risk is. So, this kit is an educational tool."

Zika is typically mild with symptoms (fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis) lasting no more than seven days, however it can pose significant threat to a child in utero.

Research released Friday strengthens the case that Zika causes a serious birth defect called microcephaly — babies born with abnormally small heads — by targeting embryonic brain cells. The Zika virus may also be linked to a wider variety of "grave outcomes" for developing babies than previously reported.

The health department reports there have been no cases of Zika virus transmitted inside Tarrant County. There have been four cases of Zika confirmed in Dallas County, one transmitted locally through sexual intercourse, health officials said.

While sexual transmission of Zika is more common than once thought, the virus is primarily transmitted through mosquito bites -- so in addition to practicing safe sex, Zika prevention techniques include those used to curb the spread of West Nile virus.

In Dallas County, health officials are distributing door hangers in several neighborhoods to provide information on how the virus is spread.

County residents with questions about the virus can call the health department’s Zika Hotline at 817-248-6299.

With recent heavy rainfall, residents across North Texas are encouraged to remove all standing water to minimize the number of mosquito breeding grounds and to follow the guidelines below.



Photo Credit: Tarrant County Public Health Department
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<![CDATA[Dallas Co. Educates About Zika with Door Hangers]]>Tue, 08 Mar 2016 21:16:14 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika+door+hangers.jpg

Health officials are taking their fight against the Zika virus to residents' front doors in Dallas County.

Dallas County Health and Human Services is distributing door hangers in several neighborhoods.

The hangers provide information about how the virus is spread, Zika hot zones, treatment and prevention.

The virus may be linked to severe birth defects, and is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The door hangars will be available in English and Spanish.



Photo Credit: DCHHS]]>
<![CDATA[WHO: Sexual Transmission of Zika More Common Than Thought]]>Tue, 08 Mar 2016 16:42:04 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Mosquito-AP_750626106311.jpg

Sexual transmission of the Zika virus is more common than previously thought, the World Health Organization said Tuesday, citing reports from several countries.

After a meeting of its emergency committee on Tuesday, the U.N. health agency also said there is increasing evidence that a spike in disturbing birth defects and neurological problems are caused by Zika, which is mostly spread by mosquito bites. When WHO declared the explosive outbreak in the Americas to be a global emergency last month, it said that the evidence that Zika was responsible was only circumstantial.

WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said "reports and investigations in several countries strongly suggest that sexual transmission of the virus is more common than previously assumed." The U.S. is investigating more than a dozen possible cases of Zika in people who may have been infected through sex.

Dr. Bruce Aylward, who is directing WHO's response to Zika, said the cases seen so far of sexual transmission of Zika have been from men to women. He doubted sex would play an important role in the disease's spread.

"The mosquito is undoubtedly still the main driver of transmission," he said.

Chan also said nine countries have now reported increasing cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare condition that may be linked to Zika and can cause temporary paralysis and death in people of all ages. She said that problems connected to Zika, including Guillain-Barre syndrome, are now being seen not just in women of child-bearing age, but children, teenagers and older adults.

Zika is also now spreading to new countries, WHO said. It noted local transmission has now been reported in 31 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean.

"All of this news is alarming," Chan said.

Despite the lack of definitive evidence proving that Zika causes birth defects and neurological problems, Chan said officials shouldn't wait for definitive scientific proof before making recommendations.

"Microcephaly is now only one of several documented birth abnormalities associated with Zika infection during pregnancy," she said, adding that it can cause growth problems, injuries to the central nervous system and fetal death.

WHO's emergency committee called for "intensified" research into the relationship between new clusters of babies born with abnormally small heads and other neurological disorders. It said particular attention should be given to studying the genetics of the different Zika virus strains and establishing studies to determine if there is a causal relationship.

The agency also noted it was important to continue studying whether other factors could be responsible for the jump in microcephaly and neurological problems, including whether several causes combined might be to blame. Aylward explained that scientists were focusing on diseases as the main suspect, noting the evidence seems "really compelling that you're looking at an infectious process here."

So far, cases of babies born with small, deformed heads linked to Zika have only been confirmed in Brazil and French Polynesia, though officials say they expect reports from other countries once the virus has been circulating there long enough to affect pregnant women. Colombia has reported several suspected cases of microcephaly.

"Women who are pregnant in affected countries or travel to these countries are understandably deeply worried," Chan said.

WHO recommends pregnant women avoid travel to areas with ongoing Zika outbreaks and that if their partners travel to affected countries, they should practice safe sex or abstain from sex for the duration of their pregnancy.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Despite Zika Crisis, Phelps Bringing Fiancée and Son to Rio]]>Sat, 05 Mar 2016 11:27:54 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-505178362.jpg

Despite an outbreak of the Zika virus, Michael Phelps says his fiancée and newborn son will accompany him to the Rio Olympics.

Nicole Johnson is due to give birth to the couple's first child in May. She is with Phelps this week at the Arena Pro Series meet in Orlando, Florida, one of the key tuneup events for the Olympics that begin Aug. 5.

Zika has become an epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean since last fall. The virus is mainly spread through mosquito bites and has been potentially linked to birth defects.

"We're not worried about it," Phelps told The Associated Press. "I think if you go into any Olympics, there's always something that comes up."

Of course, it would be a different story if Johnson was scheduled to deliver after the games.

"If she was pregnant, she definitely wouldn't go," Phelps said. "But she's fine about it. She's not missing it. And I wouldn't want the little guy to miss it either. He won't be able to remember it. But he'll have a story to tell."

Two of the top U.S. female swimmers, Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin, have no concerns about competing in Rio.

The 18-year-old Ledecky, expected to be one of the biggest American stars, said the U.S. Olympic Committee has done a good job keeping the athletes informed about the potential risks and steps it is taking to ensure their safety.

"I'm confident," she said, "that we'll be able to go to Rio and be prepared for all the situations."

Franklin, who won four gold medals at the 2012 London Games, expressed a similar sentiment.

"Whenever we go to new countries, USA Swimming and the USOC prepare us for whatever we're going into," the 20-year-old Franklin said. "I know this will be no different."

In fact, she's hoping to stay in Rio a few extra days after the Olympics.

"I'm so excited. I've heard so many great things about the culture there," said Franklin, who has never been to South America. "That's my favorite part of traveling, experiencing the culture and the people."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[U.S. Olympic Panel to Address Zika Concerns]]>Sat, 05 Mar 2016 08:15:57 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZIKA10.jpg

As concerns continue to grow about the Zika virus in Brazil ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics, the U.S. Olympic Committee has announced plans to create a safety advisory board.

The team of doctors will provide athletes and staff with information to stay healthy, safe and able to compete at a high level.

Athletes hoping to make the trip to Rio, like Erin Clodjo with the U.S. Women's National Wrestling team, are concerned.

"I was stressed about the Zika virus and getting bit," said Clodjo.

She was in Brazil just one month ago for Olympic test events. Since then she has seen the disease explode in numbers.

To protect its athletes the USOC panel will develop educational material and be available to offer updates and create plans for athletes who become ill.

"There's no doubt in my mind that they will put the right policies and procedures in place to do the best they can," said Terry Steiner, coach of the U.S. Women's National Wrestling team.

The Olympics will be held Aug. 5 to 21, during the winter in Brazil, and mosquitoes aren't expected to be as abundant.

Nonetheless, Steiner said he and his team will take all the necessary precautions.

"These athletes, for them it's probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be there and represent your country and trying to win a medal, so I think they will pretty zeroed-in on what they need to focus on," Steiner said.

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<![CDATA[More Evidence of Zika's Risk to Pregnant Women]]>Fri, 04 Mar 2016 19:42:29 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zikaGetty-508041046.jpg

The Zika virus may be linked to a wider variety of "grave outcomes" for developing babies than previously reported — threats that can come at any stage of pregnancy, researchers reported Friday.

The findings are preliminary results from the first study tracking pregnant women in Brazil from the time they were infected, and do not prove that Zika is to blame. But they come as separate laboratory research released Friday strengthens the case that Zika causes a serious birth defect called microcephaly — babies born with abnormally small heads — by targeting embryonic brain cells.

"It's much more than microcephaly," said Dr. Karin Nielsen of the University of California, Los Angeles, who led the pregnancy study with colleagues at the Fiocruz Institute in Brazil. "It seems like it can act on multiple fronts."

The mosquito-borne virus, which is spreading in Latin America and the Caribbean, normally causes only mild symptoms, if any, in adults. But it raised alarm when Brazilian health officials reported an apparent surge in babies born with microcephaly, which can signal their brains didn't develop properly. Reports have documented traces of the virus in the brains of affected babies who died soon after birth, and in fetal brain tissue after abortion.

The study from Brazil, reported Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine, took a closer look during pregnancy.

The study so far is tracking 88 otherwise healthy pregnant women who sought care for Zika-like symptoms at a clinic run by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Rio de Janiero between September and last month. Tests showed 72 were actively infected with the virus. Forty-two of the infected women, and all of the presumably non-infected ones, agreed to fetal ultrasound exams. Those ultrasounds found abnormalities in 12 of the infected women, or 29 percent. The non-infected women all had normal ultrasounds.

The exams did uncover some abnormal brain development. But they also detected two fetuses that died in utero during the last trimester; poor growth even without microcephaly; problems with the placenta; and one case that prompted an emergency C-section because of low amniotic fluid, Nielsen said.

Six live births have occurred so far. One baby has severe microcephaly. Two were born too small for gestational age, one of whom had lesions in the eyes that signal vision problems if not blindness. Two other babies had normal ultrasounds and indeed, appear healthy. The baby delivered by emergency C-section struggled initially but now also appears healthy, Nielsen said.

Importantly, the researchers linked problems to infections during each trimester of pregnancy, not just the first trimester that doctors have speculated would be the riskiest.

"Unfortunately, we still have many unanswered questions," said Dr. Christopher M. Zahn of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. But the new findings provide "additional evidence suggesting an association between Zika virus and negative obstetrical outcomes, including birth defects and fetal demise."

"We're starting to build the case epidemiologically that maternal infection with this virus is linked to poor fetal outcomes," added Dr. Sallie Permar, a specialist in maternal-fetal infections at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute.

In an unrelated study Friday, researchers found that Zika can infect embryonic cells that help form the brain, and harm them in two ways: killing some outright and damaging the ability of others to divide and grow in number.

Those cells, when healthy, help build the part of the brain that is affected in microcephaly, said Hengli Tang of Florida State University, a lead author of the work published by the journal Cell Stem Cell. But he stressed that his study does not prove that Zika causes microcephaly, nor that it works by that route. A number of other viruses are known to trigger the condition.

Researchers did not take the brain cells from embryos; they created them from stem cells obtained from other sources.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who did not participate in the research, agreed that the study doesn't prove a link. But "it certainly adds weight to the argument," he said.

Researchers also found that infected cells pump out more virus.

Dr. Guo-li Ming of Johns Hopkins University, another lead study author, said researchers can now explore questions like how Zika infects the cells.

Tang said he is collaborating with other labs to look for substances that will block Zika infection of cells, in hopes of eventually creating a treatment for pregnant women that reduces the risk of passing the infection to their babies.
 



Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Highland Village to Begin Testing for Zika Virus]]>Fri, 04 Mar 2016 19:27:05 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZIKA_GettyImages-509400338.jpg

With more mosquito-borne illnesses creating concern in North Texas, the city of Highland Village is picking its efforts to fight the insects this year.

The city council voted to begin testing for Zika virus and chikungunya this year and could add other emerging illnesses to the list as it becomes necessary.

"We're trying to be ready for anything," said Public Works Director Scott Kriston. "We have our traps ready."

The city has contracted the mosquito testing through Municipal Mosquito since 2012 when they began testing regularly for West Nile virus. Kriston said that group will conduct this new testing as well.

Kriston's team plans to launch the mosquito defense program in May, but he said with the warm temperatures this year, they may have to start early as the problem breeds of mosquito start showing up.

"We're already getting calls of people seeing mosquitoes," he said.

Neighbors in the city have already started their own personal plans to fight the bite.

Many said Friday that they've already begun treating pools and standing water with dunks, and resident Michelle Hart said she screened in her outdoor porch over the cool months in anticipation of a buggy summer.

"Just knowing what it's been like the past few years and knowing it's supposed to be worse this year," said Hart.

Public health leaders continue to encourage residents to monitor for mosquitoes and take precautions; especially with the warm weather this year and rain in the forecast.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Fight Against Zika More Focused Than West Nile]]>Thu, 03 Mar 2016 23:51:17 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ground-spraying-dfw-generic-01.jpg

The Texas Department of State Health Services is warning "it's only a matter of time" before mosquitoes in Texas begin transmitting the Zika virus.

Fighting them will take a different approach than the battle against West Nile virus, officials say.

"In the West Nile virus, we're doing truck spraying," said Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services. "In Zika, just like your neighborhood exterminator, we're going to come to your home and actually look around and see if mosquitoes are around your property or in your house."

The mosquitoes that can carry Zika stay close to homes, so hand-held foggers, sprayers and backpacks used in the early evening make the best weapons.

"You want to be able to get into this backyard, inspect these areas and treat up close and personal, so you can take care of the mosquitoes to better protect these people," said Patrick Prather, of Municipal Mosquito, which assists many North Texas cities and counties in their fight against mosquitoes.

Small trucks can spray in alleys behind homes, targeting those closest to that of someone with a confirmed case of Zika.

"We're looking at one, two, three houses where it's a very focused treatment," said Prather. "West Nile is a game of yards. Zika is a game of inches."

Some backyards may remain off limits.

"I wouldn't want somebody coming on my property without my permission," said Prather. "But we do ask for consent, we go in and ask for their cooperation with doing those inspections and helping them abate the issues on their own property."

Travel related cases of Zika may not require spraying near the patient's home.

"Localized transmission is going to be what triggers the spraying," said Thompson. "With the actual imported cases, we can go out and do some trapping, but it may not constitute us doing any ground or spraying around that home."

Texas has confirmed 18 cases of Zika, all of them travel-related.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Google to Donate $1M to Help Fight Zika Virus Spread ]]>Thu, 03 Mar 2016 12:21:10 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Mosquitoes-AP_100665838820.jpg

Google is donating $1 million to fight the spread of the Zika virus and offering engineers and data scientists help to determine where it will hit next.

Zika has become an epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean since last fall. The virus is mainly spread through mosquito bites and has been potentially linked to birth defects.

Google said in a blog post that it is in a good position to assist since its mission is to help people find information, and it has experience analyzing large sets of data. The company has seen a more than 3,000 percent increase in global search interest in Zika since November.

"Fighting Zika requires raising awareness on how people can protect themselves, as well as supporting organizations who can help drive the development of rapid diagnostics and vaccines. We also have to find better ways to visualize the threat so that public health officials and NGO’s can support communities at risk," Google wrote.

Google operates a group of businesses, including a dominant Internet search engine, under the holding company Alphabet Inc. Google brought in an operating profit of $6.8 billion in last year's fourth quarter.

The Mountain View, California, company's grant will go to UNICEF and be used to help reduce mosquito populations and support the development of diagnostics and vaccines as well as work to prevent virus transmission. Google is also launching a matching campaign for its employees, aimed at providing an additional $500,000 to help support UNICEF and the Pan American Health Organization's work on the ground.

Google's engineers are helping to build a platform to process data on things like weather and travel patterns to predict potential outbreaks. The company said the platform will be used to help government officials and others to decide where to focus their resources. 

The company also announced it is working with YouTube creators in Latin America, including Sesame Street, to help raise awareness about Zika prevention through their channels.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Zika Virus Concerns Lead to More Ultrasounds]]>Thu, 03 Mar 2016 10:53:56 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika+ultrasound+pregnant.jpgSonographers say nearly every pregnant mother they see is asking for the same reassurance that their pregnancy does not have complications from Zika virus.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Dallas Co. Confirms Fourth Case of Zika Virus]]>Wed, 02 Mar 2016 01:18:26 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/180*120/zika-GettyImages-506975094.jpg

Dallas County Health and Human Services officials say Tuesday a fourth person has tested positive for Zika virus.

The test was confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health officials said.

The patient is a 55-year-old resident of DeSoto who traveled to El Salvador, and the person's symptoms have since resolved, according to DCHHS.

Last week, the Tarrant County Public Health Department confirmed the first imported case of Zika virus in that county.

The most common symptoms of Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week.

While sexual transmission of Zika virus is possible, it is primarily transmitted to people by Aedes species mosquitoes. So far, there are no confirmed reports of Zika transmission by mosquitoes in the United States.

The virus can have far more harmful effects on women who are infected while pregnant. Zika has led to reports of microcephaly in infants ad other "poor pregnancy outcomes," according to the CDC.

DCHHS advises individuals with symptoms to see a healthcare provider if they visited an area where Zika virus is present or had sexual contact with a person who traveled to an area where Zika virus is present.

There is no specific medication available to treat Zika virus and there is not a vaccine. The best way to avoid Zika virus is to avoid mosquito bites and sexual contact with a person who has Zika virus.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Zika Concerns Grow; Still Few Answers ]]>Tue, 01 Mar 2016 17:28:19 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Mosquito-AP_750626106311.jpg

Anxiety about the Zika virus continues after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed it has been tracking nine pregnant women in the U.S. who tested positive for the virus.

Some of those cases had tragic outcomes. Four of the women suffered miscarriages or chose to end their pregnancies after complications, and one woman gave birth to an infant with serious birth defects.

Just this week, new research offered the first evidence that Zika might cause a severe neurological disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Dr. Seema Yasmin, the Dallas Morning News' medical expert, said there are still many unanswered questions about the Zika virus, including how long it can remain in the body.

"The guidance is still to make sure you protect yourself against mosquito bites if you're going to any area – not just Brazil – any area where this epidemic is raging," Yasmin said. "And also, even if you're not traveling and your partner is going to one of these places, it's really important that you have protected sex once they return home."

Yasmin also advises people to remember that mosquito season is just around the corner.

"People in North Texas are already reporting seeing mosquitoes in their backyards," Yasmin said. "As soon as it gets to about 60 or even 70 degrees, those mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya and Zika, they start to breed. So, it's really important you get rid of any standing water around the house."

"I've talked to scientists who say that you see discarded soda caps, and just there is enough water for mosquitoes to start breeding," Yasmin added.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Zika May Cause Temporary Paralysis: Study]]>Tue, 01 Mar 2016 16:50:46 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Mosquito-AP_750626106311.jpg

Scientists may have the first evidence that Zika can cause temporary paralysis, according to a new study of patients who developed the rare condition during an outbreak of the virus in Tahiti two years ago.

Zika is currently spreading with alarming speed across the Americas. The World Health Organization declared the epidemic to be a global emergency several weeks ago based on suspicions it may be behind a surge in disturbing birth defects and in Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological illness that mostly lasts a few weeks.

Before reaching South America last year, the mosquito-spread Zika had triggered outbreaks in the South Pacific on Yap island in Micronesia and in French Polynesia, including its largest island, Tahiti.

Researchers in Tahiti, France and elsewhere went back and analyzed blood samples from all 42 adults diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome from the 2013-14 outbreak; nearly everyone showed signs of a previous Zika infection.

They were compared with patients who did not have the condition and did not have any Zika symptoms but were treated at the same hospital for other illnesses. Tests showed only half of that group of 98 had apparently been infected with the normally mild virus.

The research was published online Monday in the journal Lancet.

"The evidence that links Zika virus with Guillain-Barre syndrome is now substantially more compelling," said Peter Barlow, an infectious diseases expert at Edinburgh Napier University who was not part of the study. But he noted in a statement that more research was needed before reaching the same conclusion about the outbreak in the Americas, where local factors may be playing a role.

Zika is mostly spread by mosquito bites and in most people causes symptoms including fever, muscle pain and a rash. About 80 percent of people who catch the disease don't report any illness.

Guillain-Barre syndrome is typically seen after a viral or bacterial infection so a possible connection to Zika isn't entirely unexpected. It occurs when the body's immune system attacks the nervous system, often for unknown reasons. It can cause muscle weakness and breathing problems; about 5 percent of patients die from the disorder. Of the patients observed in Tahiti, none died and three months after leaving the hospital, about 40 percent could walk unaided.

The study also considered whether Guillain-Barre was the result of people being infected with both Zika and a related tropical disease, dengue, by comparing them with people who had Zika but no neurological symptoms. It found no hint that having dengue upped the risk.

Based on their findings, the scientists estimated that of 100,000 people with Zika, about 24 would develop Guillain-Barre syndrome. In Europe and North America, the average rate of the syndrome after infections like flu and dengue is about one to two people per 100,000.

David Smith of Australia's Curtin University said it was difficult to know exactly how often Zika causes Guillain-Barre syndrome. Smith co-authored an accompanying commentary in the Lancet.

He said in an email that because the Zika virus disappears from the body by the time patients develop neurological complications, there was only indirect evidence — via infection-fighting antibodies — that Zika caused Guillain-Barre syndrome. Zika is thought to be gone from the bloodstream after a week or so. Smith said not all of the Guillain-Barre cases in Tahiti could be blamed on Zika and that the researchers' estimate of the syndrome's incidence was probably inflated.

Still, experts predicted cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome would jump as Zika explodes in the Americas and WHO has warned the disease is likely to spread everywhere in the region except for Canada and Chile.

The study doesn't shed any light on whether Zika is also responsible for the spike in the number of babies born in Brazil with abnormally small heads, or microcephaly.

"That remains a mystery but our suspicions are very strong," said Jimmy Whitworth, a professor of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

"Both Guillain-Barre syndrome and microcephaly are neurological conditions, but I don't think it would be the same mechanism that's causing both," he said. "There may be something slightly different happening with microcephaly."

Since the Zika outbreak in the Americas began last year, it has sparked epidemics in about 40 countries, of which eight have reported cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome possibly connected to Zika.
 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Zika Could Sweep Puerto Rico]]>Tue, 01 Mar 2016 12:31:26 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZIKA_GettyImages-509400338.jpg

Leilani Dominicci has all the typical worries of a pregnant woman, plus a new one spreading across Puerto Rico: the fear she will become infected with the Zika virus and put her baby at risk.

Her unease has escalated so much that the 38-year-old attorney barely leaves her home in the capital of San Juan because of warnings the island faces an onslaught of the mosquito-borne illness.

As the virus sweeps through the hemisphere, Puerto Rico has become America's own front line in the battle against it — home to 3.5 million U.S. citizens and with a tropical landscape that is an ideal breeding ground for the mosquito that spreads Zika, as well as the dengue and chikungunya already common here.

Authorities say more than 20 percent of the island population could contract Zika in an outbreak that could peak by summer. Officials have barred local blood donations, ramped up efforts to eradicate the Aedes aegypti mosquito and are trying to monitor every pregnant woman on the island due to fears Zika might cause birth defects.

The voluntary registry by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extends to all Zika-infected women and their babies throughout the United States.

The Puerto Rican governor, meanwhile, has declared a public health emergency, and the CDC, which earlier urged pregnant women to reconsider visits to Puerto Rico, has asked Congress for $250 million in emergency aid to battle Zika here. The CDC has also sent nearly 40 health workers to help, and is using the island as a test bed for Zika studies.

"For the U.S., it really is the territory that is going to have the most infections," said Steve Waterman, head of the CDC's dengue branch in Puerto Rico. "It has the best medical and public health infrastructure to try and answer some of these questions at the same time that we're trying to control the disease."

Among the CDC's main goals is to test every pregnant woman in Puerto Rico for Zika and prevent people like Dominicci from contracting the virus. The CDC is urging people to take preventive measures, a call that Dominicci and her husband heeded after the first Zika case was reported in December.

"We have locked ourselves up at home," said Dominicci, who is nearly 37 weeks pregnant. "It's a constant concern, especially for women like us who are so far along because our options are limited. Ending a pregnancy at this stage is not even legal."

Zika causes headaches, fever and a rash, though most people with the virus never show symptoms. CDC researchers in Brazil and Puerto Rico are trying to determine whether the virus can cause microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads, and a rare paralyzing condition, Guillain-Barre, which can be fatal.

At least 117 people have tested positive for Zika in Puerto Rico, including five pregnant women. At least five people have been hospitalized, including a man recovering from Guillain-Barre.

"Our objective is to protect as many pregnant women as possible and that is what we are trying to do," he said.

More than 80 percent of adults in Puerto Rico already have had dengue and an estimated 30 percent had chikungunya, viruses spread by the same insect. But Zika poses a greater concern, said Dr. Brenda Rivera, the island's epidemiologist.

"None of those diseases have the implication for future generations that this one does, at least that we think it does," she said.

It's a preoccupation shared by Yelitza Irizarry, a 39-year-old attorney who lost a baby in December and is undergoing fertility treatment. She wears pants and long-sleeved shirts, has shuttered the windows in her home and drenches herself in repellent every few hours. Still, she can't stop thinking about Zika and potential birth defects.

"It raises a thousand concerns," she said.

CDC officials have set up a temporary lab to breed mosquitoes and determine if they are resistant to insecticides that Puerto Rico is using.

The center has also trained lab workers in using a test created in Puerto Rico this year that can detect dengue, chikungunya and Zika all at once to cut costs and speed up the process. It's launching a study to analyze how long Zika remains in semen, saliva and urine, and tracking birth defects and Guillain-Barre cases.

The Puerto Rican government halted all blood donations this month and began buying blood from the Red Cross to prevent potential contamination, following recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The territory also issued an administrative order freezing the price of condoms, fearing sellers might take advantage of fears to raise prices given that there's some evidence Zika can be spread through sex.

Concerns about Zika have traveled throughout the Caribbean, where officials express concern it could hurt tourism industry even though there has been no significant effect yet.

Martinique and French Guiana have declared an epidemic with more than 6,000 suspected cases, including at least 38 pregnant women and five people with Guillain-Barre. Haiti has reported more than 500 cases, but the actual number is believed to be much higher because of weak monitoring systems. Many Haitians live in shacks with little protection from insects that breed in trash-clogged canals and gullies.

Health officials stress that eliminating breeding sites is key to preventing a Zika epidemic in the Caribbean.

In Puerto Rico, crews have rounded up used tires that can collect water, installed window screens at public schools and have fumigated thousands of neighborhoods, including Dominicci's. She said the number of mosquitoes has decreased greatly, but she still worries some will slip into her home. Her niece is developmentally disabled, and she said it's been a struggle for her family.

"Bringing a child into the world in those conditions has to be devastating," she said of the potential tie between microcephaly and Zika. "I no longer have any options. I have to welcome my daughter no matter what at this point in my pregnancy."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[1st Case of Imported Zika Confirmed in Tarrant County]]>Thu, 25 Feb 2016 18:35:34 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika-lab.jpg

The Tarrant County Public Health Department confirmed Thursday the first imported case of Zika virus in the county.

The patient, whose name and personal information are not being disclosed, traveled to a Caribbean country with known local transmission of the disease.

The positive sample was tested in TCPH’s North Texas Regional Laboratory.

So far, there are no confirmed reports of Zika transmission by mosquitoes in the United States.

"With the imported case and this not being mosquito season, the likelihood of it spreading in our community is almost negligible," said Tarrant County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja. "But it is a good reminder that imported cases do happen. The outbreak is now in about 39 countries, so that's a lot of countries where people are traveling back and forth."

The Zika virus is typically spread through mosquito bites, but the CDC said earlier this week they were investigating 14 new reports of sexual transmission of Zika, including several pregnant women. It is not yet known if any of those cases are in Texas.

Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added two countries to the list of travel destinations affected by Zika -- the Marshall Islands and Trinidad and Tobago -- and said travelers should take enhanced precautions.

Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week, Dallas County health officials said.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.

  • Dusk and Dawn: Stay inside if possible — mosquitoes are most active during dusk and dawn.
  • Dress in long sleeves, pants when outside: For extra protection, spray thin clothing with repellent.
  • DEET: Make sure this ingredient is in your insect repellent.
  • Drain standing water in your yard and neighborhood: Mosquitoes can develop in any water stagnant for more than three days.

 NBC 5's Jocelyn Lockwood contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[CDC Adds 2 Destinations to Zika Travel Warning List]]>Wed, 24 Feb 2016 04:45:42 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZIKA_GettyImages-509400338.jpg

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added two destinations Tuesday to the list of places with Zika-related travel warnings.

While working with public health officials to monitor for ongoing Zika virus‎ transmission, the CDC added Trinidad and Tobago and the Marshall Islands to the list of regions where Zika transmission is ongoing. The CDC warning is a Level 2 warning, saying travelers should "Practice Enhanced Precautions."

Specific areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing are often difficult to determine and are likely to continue to change over time. For a full list of affected countries/regions, click here.

The best way to prevent being infected by the virus is to prevent mosquito bites. Mosquitoes that spread Zika are aggressive daytime biters, the CDC said, though they have also been known to bite after dusk. While a Zika vaccine is being developed, there is currently no vaccine or medicine available to treat a Zika infection.

The CDC warns travelers headed to regions where the virus is present could be come infected and not become sick until after returning home, or they could simply carry the virus home and never become sick.

"Some people who are infected do not have any symptoms. People who do have symptoms have reported fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. Other commonly reported symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon and the number of deaths is low. Travelers to areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission should monitor for symptoms or illness upon return. If they become sick, they should tell their healthcare professional where they have traveled and when," the CDC said.

Zika Virus and Pregnancy: CDC

Until more is known, CDC continues to recommend that pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant take the following precautions.

Pregnant women
• Consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.
• If you must travel to or live in one of these areas, talk to your healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites.
• If you have a male partner who lives in or has traveled to an area where Zika transmission is ongoing, either abstain from sex or use condoms consistently and correctly for the duration of your pregnancy.

Women trying to get pregnant
• Before you or your male partner travel, talk to your healthcare provider about your plans to become pregnant and the risk of Zika virus infection.
• You and your male partner should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites.

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) has been reported in patients with probable Zika virus infection in French Polynesia and Brazil. Research efforts underway will also examine the link between Zika and GBS.

14 New Reports of Sexual Transmission of Zika Investigated

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday it is investigating 14 new reports of sexual transmission of Zika, including several involving pregnant women.

"In two of the new suspected sexual transmission events, Zika virus infection has been confirmed in women whose only known risk factor was sexual contact with an ill male partner who had recently traveled to an area with local Zika virus transmission," the CDC said in a statement. "Testing for the male partners is still pending."

Confirmatory tests are pending in four other suspected sexual transmission events, the CDC said. And an investigation is ongoing in eight other suspected events.

The new cases involve possible transmission of the virus from men to their sex partners, according to the CDC. Currently, there is no evidence that women can transmit Zika virus to their sex partners, but more research needs to be done.

Earlier this month, Dallas health officials reported the first known case of sexual transmission of Zika in the current outbreak. Zika has been spreading rapidly across the Americas, prompting the World Health Organization to declare it an international public health emergency.

Mosquito bites remain the primary vehicle for Zika transmission but sexual transmission of the virus infection is possible, the CDC said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[CDC Investigating 14 New Reports of Sexual Transmission of Zika]]>Tue, 23 Feb 2016 15:28:16 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZikaVaccine-AP_277080321305.jpg

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday it is investigating 14 new reports of sexual transmission of Zika, including several involving pregnant women.

"In two of the new suspected sexual transmission events, Zika virus infection has been confirmed in women whose only known risk factor was sexual contact with an ill male partner who had recently traveled to an area with local Zika virus transmission," the CDC said in a statement. "Testing for the male partners is still pending." 

Confirmatory tests are pending in four other suspected sexual transmission events, the CDC said. And an investigation is ongoing in eight other suspected events. 

The new cases involve possible transmission of the virus from men to their sex partners, according to the CDC. Currently, there is no evidence that women can transmit Zika virus to their sex partners, but more research needs to be done. 

Earlier this month, Dallas health officials reported the first known case of sexual transmission of Zika in the current outbreak. Zika has been spreading rapidly across the Americas, prompting the World Health Organization to declare it an international public  health emergency.

Mosquito bites remain the primary vehicle for Zika transmission but sexual transmission of the virus infection is possible, the CDC said.  

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[New Zika Virus Rapid Tests Developed in Texas]]>Tue, 23 Feb 2016 18:07:15 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZikaVaccine-AP_277080321305.jpg

Two Texas medical center institutions say they have developed the country's first hospital-based rapid tests for the Zika virus.

Pathologists and clinical laboratory scientists at Texas Children's Hospital and Houston Methodist Hospital developed a "Zika direct test" that would quickly determine if a patient has the virus, the hospitals said Tuesday.

The program was designed to facilitate rapid development of tests for virus detection in a large metro area, the hospitals said in a statement.

The tests are customized to each hospital's diagnostic laboratory and will provide results within several hours. They can be performed on blood, amniotic fluid, urine or spinal fluid, according to Dr. James Versalovic, pathologist-in-chief at Texas Children's and leader of the Texas Children's Zika test development team.

"With travel-associated cases of the Zika virus becoming more prevalent in the United States, coupled with the looming increase in mosquito exposure during spring and summer months, we must be prepared for a surge of Zika testing demand," Versalovic said. "We must provide answers for anxious moms-to-be and families who may experience signs and symptoms or may simply have travel history to endemic areas."

Doctors have had to wait for long periods for tests to be developed at local and state public health laboratories and the CDC, the hospitals said.

"Hospital-based testing that is state-of-the-art enables our physicians and patients to get very rapid diagnostic answers. If tests need to be repeated or if our treating doctors need to talk with our pathologists, we have the resources near patient care settings," said Houston Methodist Hospital Dr. James M. Musser, chair of the Department of Pathology and Genomic Medicine, who led the Houston Methodist test development team.

The test works by detecting genetic material of the virus, and can distinguish Zika from other viral infections like Dengue or West Nile, Musser said in the statement.

So far, only registered patients at the two hospitals can receive the test but the hospitals say their labs will consider referral testing from other hospitals and clinics.

The hospitals say the test will be initially offered to patients with a positive travel history and symptoms that would indicate acute Zika virus infection, such as rash, arthralgias or fever. It will also be given to asymptomatic pregnant women who have traveled to any of the affected countries.

The World Health Organization is now advising pregnant women to consult their doctors before traveling to places with Zika virus outbreaks and consider delaying travel. The CDC issued similar guidelines to American women last month.

Texas Children's and Houston Methodist Hospital collaborated on the program thanks to contributions from Virginia "Ginny" and L.E. Simmons, who started it after the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak.



Photo Credit: File – AP]]>
<![CDATA[Dallas to Start Mosquito Fight Early Amid Zika Concern]]>Mon, 22 Feb 2016 20:17:32 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/dallas-mosquito-spray.jpg

The City of Dallas plans to begin its annual Mosquito Abatement Program a month ahead of schedule in 2016, due largely to the emergence of the Zika virus.

Members of the Dallas City Council Quality of Life and Environmental Committee heard a proposal Monday morning from Assistant City Manager Joey Zapata to begin the city’s public education campaign on March 1.

The public education campaign involves radio advertisements aimed at encouraging people to adhere to the "Four D's":

  • Wear DEET
  •  Dress in long sleeves and pants
  • Avoid activities at Dawn and Dusk
  • Drain standing water

City officials will also mail out a flyer reminding residents of the "Four D's" when it comes to protecting themselves.

As for fighting mosquitos this season, experts say the battle begins at home.

"Everybody always wants to ask, what can the county do, what can the federal government do, really it’s what can the citizens do?" said Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.

And that is why the city of Dallas is launching its public health education campaign a month ahead of schedule.

"We’re starting in March with our radio spots as well as Dallas City residents will receive a flyer in their March water utility bill," said Assistant Director of Code Compliance Janette Weedon.

Erin Plaisance, with Municipal Mosquito, said her company is working closely with local municipalities across North Texas to make sure cities and counties work together in the battle against mosquitos this season.

"It’s extremely important that we all work together. We all need to be on the same page. If one city is doing one thing and the neighboring city isn’t doing their part, it’s still going back and forth where we are defeating the purpose of the common goal. We need to be on the same page with this," said Plaisance.

The Zika virus, spread primarily through infected mosquitoes, has been deemed a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization.

Zika outbreaks have been reported in several countries, many of which are in South and Central America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To date, no local mosquito-borne Zika virus disease cases have been reported in the United States, but there have been travel-associated cases, according to the CDC, meaning that people have traveled to areas where Zika is known to be, become infected and then returned to the U.S.

In addition, a Dallas County case of Zika has been linked to unprotected sexual contact involving a person infected with the virus.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Jamaica Uses Reggae Song to Warn of Zika Virus]]>Wed, 17 Feb 2016 12:58:07 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/We+Nuh+Want+Zika.png

Jamaican health officials have only confirmed one case of the Zika virus in the country, but the Caribbean nation's Health Ministry isn't taking any chances on the possibility of more.

Using the power of song, the government released a public service announcement in the form of a reggae dancehall jam to increase awareness of the mosquito-borne virus and inform Jamaican's on way to combat it.

The accompanying video titled "We Nuh Want Zik V,' features Dr. Michael Abrahams, an obstetrician and gynecologist dubbed "the funniest ladies' doctor" by The Jamaica Observer.

Abrahams warns to throw away stagnant water, dispose of garbage properly, and turn over "drum pan for prevention." Zika is carried by the Aedes aegypti and related species of mosquitoes, which lay eggs near stagnant water.

"And special shout out to pregnant ladies: protect yourself and protect your babies," Abrahams sings, encouraging them to use mosquito repellents and citronella candles to ward off bites. 

Mounting evidence from Brazil suggests that infection in pregnant women is linked to abnormally small heads in their babies — a birth defect called microcephaly. According to WHO, cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, the Western world's most common form of paralysis, is also on the rise in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Suriname and Venezuela — all hit hard by Zika.

Though a link remains unproven, frontline physicians believe the surge in Guillain-Barre cases may also be related.

The World Health Organization declared the spread of the Zika Virus a global health emergency earlier this month. On Wednesday the U.N. health agency said it needs $56 million from member nations and donors to kickstart a response, NBC News reported.

Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. said Wednesday it had made an experimental Zika vaccine and tests in mice looked positive. According to NBC News, the company said it will test the vaccine in non-human primates and initiate clinical product manufacturing.

The Pan American Health Organization reports 26 countries and territories in the Americas with local Zika transmission. To date, there has not been transmission of the Zika virus by mosquitoes within the U.S., but some Americans have returned to the U.S. with Zika infections from affected countries in South America, Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands.
 



Photo Credit: Ministry of Health, Jamaica
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<![CDATA[The DMN's Dr. Seema Yasmin: Zika Virus Outbreak]]>Tue, 16 Feb 2016 13:18:29 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/seema-zika1.jpgThe Dallas Morning News' medical expert Dr. Seema Yasmin discusses growing concerns about the Zika virus outbreak.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Genetically Modified Mosquitoes May Be Used to Fight Zika]]>Tue, 16 Feb 2016 13:37:05 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Mosquito-AP_750626106311.jpg

The World Health Organization says it may be necessary to use controversial methods like genetically modified mosquitoes to wipe out the insects that are spreading the Zika virus across the Americas.

The virus has been linked to a spike in babies born with abnormally small heads, or microcephaly, in Brazil and French Polynesia. The U.N. health agency has declared Zika a global emergency, even though there is no definitive proof it is causing the birth defects.

WHO said its advisory group has recommended further field trials of genetically modified mosquitoes, which have previously been tested in small trials in countries including the Cayman Islands and Malaysia.

"Given the magnitude of the Zika crisis, WHO encourages affected countries ... to boost the use of both old and new approaches to mosquito control as the most immediate line of defense," WHO said in a statement. WHO says at least 34 countries have been hit by the virus in the current crisis, mostly in Latin America.

Next week, WHO chief Dr. Margaret Chan will travel to Brazil — the epicenter of the outbreak — to discuss Zika and microcephaly with the country's health minister and other officials, agency spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said on Tuesday.

WHO said previous experiments that released sterile insects have been used by other U.N. agencies to control agricultural pests. The agency described the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that spread Zika — as well as other diseases including dengue and yellow fever — as an "aggressive" mosquito that uses "sneak attacks" to bite people, noting that the mosquito has shown "a remarkable ability to adapt."

Last month, British biotech firm Oxitec said tests in Brazil in 2015 showed that genetically altered sterile male mosquitoes succeeded in reducing a type of disease-spreading mosquito larvae by 82 percent in one neighborhood in the city of Piracicaba. The genetically modified males don't spread disease because only female mosquitoes bite.

Environmentalists have previously criticized the genetically modified approach, saying wiping out an entire population of insects could have unforeseen knock-on effects on the ecosystem.

Some experts agreed it might be worth using genetically tweaked mosquitoes given the speed of Zika's spread but were unsure of the eventual consequences.

"The way this is done wouldn't leave lots of mutant mosquitoes in the countryside," said Jimmy Whitworth, an infectious diseases expert at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He said the Zika mosquitoes are an imported species that were accidentally brought to the Americas hundreds of years ago, and was optimistic their eradication wouldn't damage the environment.

However, he said such a move would be unprecedented and it would be impossible to know what the impact might be before releasing the insects into the wild.

"You would hope that the ecology would just return to how it was before this mosquito arrived," he said. "But there's no way of knowing that for sure."

Last week, a group of doctors in Argentina, Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns, suggested the jump in microcephaly cases may not be caused by Zika, but by Pyriproxyfen, a larvicide used in drinking water that aims to prevent mosquito larvae from developing into adulthood. The group said the larvicide has been used since 2014 in Brazil in several areas with a reported rise in babies with birth defects.

Spokeswoman Chaib said scientists at WHO and elsewhere had rejected any such link.

"They have reviewed all the scientific literature linked to this pesticide in particular and found the same conclusion: That there is no scientific evidence that can link this pesticide in particular to the cases of microcephaly," she said.

Brazil's government has repeatedly said pesticides were not connected to microcephaly, and has noted many cases of microcephaly in areas where Pyriproxyfen was not used. The government also noted that WHO had approved use of the chemical.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Dallas County to Start Testing for Zika Virus Monday]]>Mon, 15 Feb 2016 14:21:08 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika-lab.jpgDallas County Health and Human Services will start testing for the Zika virus in Dallas on Monday.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Dallas County to Start Testing for Zika Virus Monday]]>Fri, 12 Feb 2016 18:47:51 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika-lab.jpg

Dallas County Health and Human Services will start testing for the Zika virus in Dallas on Monday.

"The ability to test for the Zika virus is a game changer for this area," said Zach Thompson, DCHHS director.

Thompson the DCHHS lab in Dallas will be able to turn around test results in 24 hours or less. If the specimens are sent to the CDC, it can take between two and three weeks to get results.

"It will also help in terms of those pregnant females needing results quickly," Thompson said.

Thompson estimates microbiologists will test between 10 and 15 specimens a day. They will target the detection of Zika, chikungunya and dengue.

“We hope to be able to either confirm or deny the presence of any of those three viruses,” said Daniel Serinaldi, DCHHS microbiologist.

Thompson stressed patients need to go to their doctors first for testing, not the DCHHS.

The DCHHS also said practices used to prevent West Nile virus from spreading, like wearing mosquito repellant and getting rid of standing water, should be in place for preventing Zika from getting to mosquitoes in Dallas.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Brazil, Texas University Reach Deal on Zika Vaccine]]>Thu, 11 Feb 2016 13:06:47 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/AP_74989493296-zika-needle.jpg

Brazil has signed an agreement with the University of Texas Medical Branch to develop a vaccine against the Zika virus, adding the goal is for the vaccine to be ready for clinical testing within 12 months.

Health Minister Marcelo Castro said at a news conference that the government will invest $1.9 million in the research, which will be jointly conducted by the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and the Evandro Chagas Institute in the Amazonian city of Belem.

He said the Health Ministry also has reached vaccine partnerships with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is looking to work with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline because of its role developing a vaccine against Ebola after a deadly outbreak in West Africa in 2014.

Brazil's Zika outbreak has become a public health crisis since researchers here linked the mosquito-borne virus to a surge in a rare birth defects compromising infants' brains. The connection has yet to be scientifically proven, but the CDC has pointed to strong evidence of a link between the two and called on pregnant women to avoid travel to 22 countries and territories in the Americas with active outbreaks.

Brazilian officials have previously said any vaccine for Zika could take as many as five years but Castro on Thursday said he was more optimistic, saying that it could be ready for distribution within three years.

As part of a stream of foreign researchers and regulators arriving to the South American nation in the coming days, representatives from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will meet with their Brazilian counterparts to ensure that clinical testing of the vaccine can take place as quickly and smoothly as possible.

"This isn't just Brazil's concern; it's the world's concern," he said.

While Castro said the government's main focus now is on quickly developing a vaccine, reports about the virus' evolution continue to emerge.

On Thursday authorities reported a third adult death in Brazil with possible links to Zika: a 20-year-old woman who died last April in Rio Grande do Norte state after being hospitalized with a severe respiratory problems.

Castro said doctors had been perplexed by the death, which occurred before the Zika outbreak had been discovered and was originally classified as a result of pneumonia. But test results made known this week confirmed traces of Zika in the woman's blood.

"We're still studying this in greater detail," Castro said, cautioning that it's impossible to know what role, if any, Zika caused in her death that the death, which was reported to the WHO.

Castro said World Health Organization chief Margaret Chan is expected to visit Brazil on Feb. 23 to help coordinate the government's response with other agencies around the world. An initial delegation of 15 researchers from the CDC was slated to arrive in Brazil on Friday, he added.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Zika Has Phones Ringing at Pest Control,Travel Firms]]>Thu, 11 Feb 2016 12:59:22 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/160*120/PHI+west+nile+testing.jpg

Some small U.S. companies are getting an influx in calls -- and in some cases, unexpected business-- due to fears about the Zika virus.

The virus often produces either no symptoms or mild ones like fever in adults, but an outbreak in Brazil has been linked to a rare birth defect that causes a newborn's heads to be smaller and brain development issues. Outbreaks also have been reported in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas.

Pest control companies in Texas are getting a surge in business because of concerns that mosquitoes bearing the Zika virus will arrive from neighboring Mexico. The companies are already spraying homes, schools and other properties; usually they don't start until April.

Darryl Nevins' Mosquito Joe franchise in Houston began getting an increase in calls last week after news reports of seven cases of Zika virus in the metropolitan area. None of the cases resulted from mosquito bites in Texas, the reports said, but people aren't taking chances and want their property sprayed.

"It's not just residential customers, what we primarily had in the past," Nevins says. "Schools, day care, commercial customers with a park nearby are calling and asking, `What do we do to protect outdoor seating?"'

Nevins says he's getting 15 inquiries a day, which is very unusual for this time of year. Even in the middle of the summer, he says, the company typically only gets 10 calls a day. Based on the demand Nevins is seeing, he expects to double his staff of four workers to handle the spraying.

In North Austin, Texas, Karyn Brown's Mosquito Squad franchise has been getting calls since mid-January -- a marked change from typical years, when the phone doesn't ring until April. Some of her customers want their property sprayed, while others want information about how mosquitoes spread the virus.

Brown is considering hiring more workers to handle a heavier workload.

"I feel a little guilty -- I don't want to profit off something so negative," Brown says.

Jim Grace's travel insurance company is selling more policies known as "cancel for any reason" coverage because of the Zika virus. Unlike regular insurance, it allows a traveler to be reimbursed if they just don't want to make the trip. Grace, CEO of InsureMyTrip in Warwick, Rhode Island, estimates his sales of these policies are up between 15 percent and 20 percent from last year because people are on the fence about vacations or business trips to affected areas.

"As long as it's at least 48 hours before you have to depart," you can say, I'm not going," Grace says.

In many ways, the Zika outbreak is like past outbreaks of disease in that it has created business for some U.S. companies, while hurting others. During the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa in 2014, companies that sold protective clothing like hazmat suits had increased sales because of demand from customers like medical facilities. On the flip side, companies that arranged safari tours to Africa lost some of their business because would-be travelers were afraid they might catch the disease.

There was some concern in the travel industry that people would cancel some trips to places like Brazil because of the Zika virus.

But the trade group American Society of Travel Agents says its members aren't losing money to the virus so far -- they're reporting few outright cancellations, where people, concerned about the virus, cancel trips and don't pick another destination. Still, customers are calling agents with questions about the virus.

"In this case with the Zika virus, if it tracks along the same lines as some other recent travel concerns, there will only be a small shift in booking patterns," spokeswoman Jennifer Michels says. "Some travelers, if they do cancel, will simply ask advice on somewhere else to go and how to best switch their itineraries."

Still, some small businesses are concerned about how the virus might affect travel.

Wedding planner Danielle Rothweiler is worried about her revenue. She's already suggesting that the engaged couples she's working with look at places like Greece rather than Mexico. She's concerned that even if couples have their hearts set on a Caribbean wedding, relatives and friends will balk at traveling to an affected area. Faced with that kind of opposition, many couples are likely to get married near their homes and have simpler weddings, says Rothweiler, owner of Rothweiler Event Design in Verona, New Jersey. If that happens, she believes she'll lose business.

"The odds that they'll hire a planner for a local wedding are not great," she says.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dallas Co. Warns More Zika Cases May Be Ahead]]>Wed, 10 Feb 2016 18:29:15 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Mosquito-AP_750626106311.jpg

There have been three cases of Zika in Dallas this month and the county's medical director expects more to come.

"Fortunately, we’re in the off-mosquito (season), where our mosquitoes aren't active, but as mosquito season goes into active-mode that increases the chances that our local mosquitoes can acquire Zika from biting someone with recent travel," said Dr. Christopher Perkins, medical director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.

Also, spring break travel is just a few weeks away, with many popular destinations reporting Zika cases. That's why it's key, health officials say, to keep reminding women who are pregnant, or may soon become pregnant, to avoid traveling to certain places.

"We have people going to the nearby tropics – the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, South America, Mexico – so with people freely coming back and forth, most likely someone will be exposed and infected with the virus," Perkins said.

The most common symptoms of Zika virus are fever, rash and red eyes.

In North Texas, the question remains what will people do in a few months headed to Rio to watch the Olympics? And what will female athletes do who plan on participating?

"At this point in time, the Brazil health ministry has said that there seem to be correlation between Zika infection and mothers-to-be with their offspring," Perkins said.

Health officials aren’t saying if this third Zika case in Dallas County is a man or a woman.

The symptoms have since cleared up over the last few days.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Alabama Health Agency Confirms First Zika Case in State]]>Wed, 10 Feb 2016 13:06:30 -0500Aedes aegypti mosquitos are seen in a lab at the Fiocruz institute on Jan. 26, 2016 in Recife, Brazil. The mosquito transmits the Zika virus and is being studied at the institute.]]>Aedes aegypti mosquitos are seen in a lab at the Fiocruz institute on Jan. 26, 2016 in Recife, Brazil. The mosquito transmits the Zika virus and is being studied at the institute.]]>https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/180*120/zika-GettyImages-506975094.jpg

Alabama health officials say they've confirmed the first travel-related case of the Zika virus in the state.

The Alabama Department of Public Health issued a statement Wednesday saying a resident of Morgan County in the Tennessee Valley tested positive for the virus.

Acting State Health Officer Tom Miller says more cases probably will show up in Alabama, noting there there are four tests results that are still pending.

“Given the frequency of international travel to affected areas, we anticipate having additional positive cases. We are working with the medical community to identify high-risk individuals,” Miller said.

The Zika virus is transmitted primarily through the bites of Aedes mosquitos. These mosquitoes are the same species that transmit dengue and chikungunya viruses. It moved quickly through Latin America before showing up in the United States, most often in people who have traveled.

Federal and state officials say cases of the virus have been confirmed in 12 states and the District of Columbia.

In the last four months, authorities have recorded close to 4,000 cases in Brazil in which the Zika virus may have led to microcephaly in infants. The ailment results in an abnormally small head in newborns and is associated with various disorders including decreased brain development. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Zika virus outbreak is likely to spread throughout nearly all the Americas.

Meanwhile, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance last week advising men who have been to a Zika outbreak region to use condoms if they have sex with a pregnant woman — for the entire duration of the pregnancy. U.S. health officials Friday also said the men might consider abstaining or using condoms even during sex with a woman who isn't pregnant.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Third Zika Case Confirmed in Dallas County]]>Wed, 10 Feb 2016 11:38:07 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika+virus2.jpg

Officials with the Dallas County Health and Human Services confirmed Wednesday a third positive test result for Zika virus.

DCHHS performed the preliminary test and will refer the specimen for additional testing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The counties two previous confirmed cases of Zika virus involved a person who contracted the virus after having intercourse with another person who recently traveled to Venezuela. Neither of the patients were pregnant and both people have fully recovered.

The county's third patient, a 45-year-old person who is not pregnant, is a resident of Dallas who recently traveled to Honduras.

"Upon returning to Dallas County, the patient was diagnosed with possible compatible symptoms that have resolved. For medical confidentiality and personal privacy reasons, DCHHS does not provide additional identifying information," county health officials said.

While sexual transmission of Zika virus is possible, it is primarily transmitted to people by Aedes species mosquitoes.

The most common symptoms of Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week.

The virus can have far more harmful effects on women who are infected while pregnant. Zika has led to reports of microcephaly in infants ad other "poor pregnancy outcomes," according to the CDC.

DCHHS advises individuals with symptoms to see a healthcare provider if they visited an area where Zika virus is present or had sexual contact with a person who traveled to an area where Zika virus is present.

There is no specific medication available to treat Zika virus and there is not a vaccine. The best way to avoid Zika virus is to avoid mosquito bites and sexual contact with a person who has Zika virus.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA['We Can Still Be Happy': Life With Microcephaly]]>Wed, 10 Feb 2016 11:31:45 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/NC_microcephaly0209_1500x845.jpgGwen and Scott Hartley describe what it's like to raise two daughters with microcephaly, a condition in the spotlight because of the Zika virus. These two girls, however, have the birth defect because of a genetic condition, not the Zika virus. "We can still be happy," Gwen said of life with their two girls. ]]><![CDATA[U.S. Soccer Team to Be Briefed on Zika Virus]]>Wed, 10 Feb 2016 00:17:50 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Womens-Soccer-GettyImages-506466114.jpg

The U.S. women's national soccer team was scheduled to be briefed Tuesday night on the developing Zika virus crisis in Latin America, a day before the start of the CONCACAF Olympic qualification tournament in Frisco.

The 2016 Olympics are scheduled for Aug. 5-21 in Brazil, where the Zika virus is spreading rapidly.

Speaking at a news conference in advance of the U.S. team's tournament opener against Costa Rica, coach Jill Ellis said there have been "constant conversations behind the scenes" about the virus.

"I think at this point the focus is certainly we want to not distract from the performance piece. We haven't qualified, so talking about Rio right now for me is not something that's in my scope," Ellis said. "But I think we're certainly sensitive to the fact that this has become a global issue."

Goalkeeper Hope Solo said in an interview with Sports Illustrated published Tuesday that she was concerned about the virus. Solo, who spoke about the possibility of someday having a child, told SI.com that if the Olympics were today, she wouldn't go.

The Zika virus has spread throughout Latin America via mosquitoes. While most people experience either mild or no symptoms, Zika is suspected of causing microcephaly, a birth defect marked by an abnormally small head. Pregnant women are urged to avoid travel to affected areas.

Solo is the first high-profile athlete to comment on Zika and the upcoming Olympics.

"We're focused on qualifying, so we don't really have Rio in our sites yet until the end of this month, hopefully," U.S. forward Alex Morgan said. "But Zika virus is a scary thing that is very unknown for a lot of people, especially on the side of pregnant women who might want to get pregnant in the following years after the Olympics."

Rio organizers have tried to calm fears that the Olympics may be affected, maintaining that the games will not be canceled. The Olympics will also be held in Brazil's winter, when colder temperatures should reduce the mosquito population.

The International Olympic Committee has expressed confidence in measures being taken against the virus in Brazil and is following the advice of the World Health Organization. The IOC has distributed the guidance to all national Olympic committees.

There are 26 countries and territories in the America's listed as zones with active Zika virus transmission by the CDC. Brazil, Costa Rica and Mexico are all on the list; Puerto Rico is the only U.S. territory where Zika is actively being transmitted.

Asked if he was concerned for his team, Mexico coach Leonardo Cuellar said Tuesday he trusted that international health officials would provide the procedures to keep athletes safe.

"I think medicine has advanced in so many ways to prevent things. We're confident it's not going to be a problem," Cuellar said. "We haven't thought about it until you mentioned that because we have to be there first."

Mexico is among the eight teams playing in the tournament for the North and Central America and Caribbean region. The tournament's championship game is set for Feb. 21 in Houston.

The top two teams will earn Olympic berths in August. The United States, ranked No. 1 in the world, has won the gold medal in the last three Olympics.

"I think right now we're trying to keep our focus on the game, and I think we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. For me, in terms of even locally here in CONCACAF, there's been a lot happening behind the scenes that probably people aren't aware of just to make sure we're informed and we're safe," Ellis said.

U.S. Soccer said in a statement Tuesday afternoon, "The safety of our athletes and staff is always the highest priority, and we are taking all necessary precautions in regard to the Zika virus."

The Associated Press' Anne M. Peterson contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[1st Case of Zika in Indiana]]>Tue, 09 Feb 2016 11:15:32 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/AP_74989493296-zika-needle.jpg

Indiana health officials say the state has its first case of Zika virus.

The Indiana State Department of Health announced Tuesday the person with the virus is "a non-pregnant resident" who recently traveled to Haiti.

There have been about 50 cases of the mosquito-spread virus reported in the United States, most in travelers returning from affected countries.

Many people infected do not get sick. For those who do, it is usually a mild illness with symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes.

The virus is primarily spread through bites from a specific mosquito. Health officials are investigating whether there is a link between Zika infections in pregnant women and a rare birth defect called microcephaly, in which babies are born with abnormally small heads. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



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<![CDATA[CDC Elevates Zika Response to Highest Level]]>Mon, 08 Feb 2016 18:29:57 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Mosquito-AP_750626106311.jpg

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have moved to the highest level of activation for a Zika response.

"To further enhance its response to the Zika virus outbreak, CDC's Emergency Operations Center is moving to a Level 1 activation-reflecting the agency's assessment of the need for an accelerated preparedness to bring together experts to focus intently and work efficiently in anticipation of local Zika virus transmission by mosquitoes in the Continental U.S.," the agency said Monday.

The EOC command center, which monitors and coordinates the response to the Zika virus, has been working on the virus since Jan. 22 to bring together CDC scientists with expertise in arboviruses, reproductive health and birth and developmental defects.

The CDC said their work includes:

  • Developing laboratory tests to diagnose Zika
  • Conducting studies to learn more about the possible linkages with microcephaly and Guillain Barré syndrome
  • Surveillance for the virus in the United States, including US territories
  • On-the-ground support in Puerto Rico, Brazil and Colombia

 "The EOC is currently home to more than 300 CDC staff working in collaboration with local, national, and international response partners to analyze, validate, and efficiently exchange information about the outbreak. The EOC has resources to rapidly transport diagnostic kits, samples and specimens, and personnel. The EOC is serving as CDC's command center for monitoring and coordinating the emergency response to Zika, including the deployment of CDC staff and the procurement and management of all equipment and supplies that CDC responders may need during deployment."



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[US Athletes Worried About Zika Told to Skip Rio: Report]]>Mon, 08 Feb 2016 17:17:41 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/180*120/zika-GettyImages-506962162.jpg

UPDATE: The United States Olympic Committee strongly denied that it has advised athletes and staff to consider skipping Rio, calling the earlier Reuters report "not accurate."

The earlier report:

The United States Olympic Committee told U.S. sports federations on a January conference call that athletes and staff worried about contracting the Zika virus should consider not going to the 2016 Rio Olympics in August, two people on the call told Reuters.

Federations were told that no one should go to Brazil "if they don't feel comfortable going. Bottom line," said Donald Anthony, president and board chairman of USA Fencing.

Anthony added that, "One of the things that they immediately said was, especially for women that may be pregnant or even thinking of getting pregnant, that whether you are scheduled to go to Rio or no, that you shouldn't go."

Alan Ashley, chief of sport performance for the USOC, did not respond to email or phone calls requesting comment.

The USOC has not officially issued its own set of recommendations for athletes and staff beyond what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have issued.



Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Obama Asks for Emergency Funds to Combat Zika]]>Mon, 08 Feb 2016 09:56:00 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Mosquito-AP_750626106311.jpg

President Barack Obama is asking Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to help fight the Zika virus.

In an announcement Monday, the White House said the money would be used to expand mosquito control programs, speed development of a vaccine, develop diagnostic tests and improve support for low-income pregnant women.

Zika virus disease is mainly spread by mosquitoes. Most people who catch it experience mild or no symptoms. But mounting evidence from Brazil suggests that infection in pregnant women is linked to abnormally small heads in their babies — a birth defect called microcephaly.

"What we now know is that there appears to be some significant risk for pregnant women and women who are thinking about having a baby," Obama said in an interview aired Monday on "CBS This Morning."

The White House said that as spring and summer approach, the U.S. must prepare to quickly address local transmission with the continental U.S. Obama added, however, that "there shouldn't be a panic on this."

Two health care experts will answer reporters' questions Monday at the regular White House press briefing: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The administration's request to Congress is separate from the budget for the next fiscal year that Obama will submit to Congress on Tuesday. The administration seeks the Zika money much more quickly than the regular budget process would allow.

The Pan American Health Organization reports 26 countries and territories in the Americas with local Zika transmission. To date, there has not been transmission of the Zika virus by mosquitoes within the U.S., but some Americans have returned to the U.S. with Zika infections from affected countries in South America, Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands.

Most of the money would be allocated to the Department of Health and Human Services to improve laboratory capacity, launch educational programs and establish rapid response teams. About $250 million of assistance would be directed specifically to Puerto Rico though extra Medicaid funding. The island is in the midst of a fiscal crisis. And $200 million would go toward research and commercialization of new vaccines and diagnostic tests.

The remainder, about $335 million would go to the U.S. Agency for International Development. The money would help affected countries in South America, Central America and the Caribbean provide training to health care workers, stimulate private sector research and help pregnant women gain access to repellant to protect against mosquitoes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 50 laboratory-confirmed cases among U.S. travelers from December 2015- Feb. 5, the White House said. So far, the only recent case that has been transmitted within the U.S. is believed to have occurred in Texas through sex.

Zika usually is transmitted through bites from infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are common in Florida, along the Gulf Coast and states that border Mexico.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[University of North Texas Warns Students of Zika Virus]]>Fri, 05 Feb 2016 18:38:13 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/TLMD-mosquito-zancudo-zika--.JPG

The University of North Texas is urging students to be careful amidst the spread of the Zika virus in parts of Texas and elsewhere.
The school sent out an advisory Friday morning, just as the Centers for Disease Control put out new health guidelines on the virus.
“We have three students who are currently studying in those affected areas,” said Elizabeth With, vice president of student affairs for UNT.
One is in Mexico, while two others are scheduled to depart for Argentina and Peru in March.
According to With, they have been in constant communication with students and faculty in all locations.
“We wanted them to know, one, that we're monitoring it. And two, that their safety and security is important to us,” said With.
The reminder came just as the CDC issued its own advisory Friday. A new set of interim guidelines was released, advising against sexual activity for some pregnant women.
“The real problem here is the effect on the developing brain of the fetus. That is what had to be the priority for protection,” said Tom Frieden, director of CDC.
As researchers learn more about the virus, Frieden said the link between the disease and a brain defect in unborn children, Microcephaly, becomes clearer.
It’s why they are recommending pregnant women, whose partner has been in a region infected with the virus, to proceed with caution.
The guidelines read, “Men with a pregnant sex partner who reside in or have traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission and their pregnant sex partners should consistently and correctly use condoms during sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) or abstain from sexual activity for the duration of the pregnancy.”
Frieden explained they were also making new recommendations to health providers. If a pregnant woman without symptoms resides in an infected area, the CDC recommends testing for the virus.
“Testing is recommended when women begin prenatal care. Follow-up testing around the middle of the second trimester of pregnancy is also recommended, because of an ongoing risk of Zika virus exposure,” the agency wrote. “Pregnant women should receive routine prenatal care, including an ultrasound during the second trimester of pregnancy. An additional ultrasound may be performed at the discretion of the health care provider.”
In Dallas County, health officials are still awaiting results on four possible cases of the virus. Friday, they had no update on them.



Photo Credit: TELEMUNDO LOCAL]]>
<![CDATA[Mission Trip Volunteers Get Zika Advice]]>Sat, 06 Feb 2016 00:04:13 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/buckner+international+shoes.jpg

Volunteers who go on mission trips with a North Texas-based Christian charity group will soon get updated travel advisories regarding the Zika virus.

"We are pointing directly to the CDC advice," said Russell Dilday, with Buckner International. "We're not experts in that field but we want to take it seriously, and it seems like every day there's a new precaution that we need to take, and so we're keeping everyone updated."

The oldest non-profit organization in Dallas, Buckner International offers a wide range of services to families and children in need throughout Central and South America, including four countries now affected by the Zika virus – Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.

"The latest team that just returned from Guatemala, no issues, you know not a lot of warnings by that time in country," said Dilday.

The 20 volunteers returned Monday after five days in Guatemala, where more than 100 cases of Zika have been reported so far.

"They're all feeling great from what we've been told, so thankfully they're okay," said Brynn Thompson, Buckner's director of international missions.

Normally, Thompson would have gone along on that trip, but with her own baby due in less than a month, she thought it best to stay home.

"Pregnant women should avoid traveling there," said Thompson. "Obviously I ask all participants to pray about going regardless of if there's a Zika virus or not, just so that they feel at peace about going."

The next group of volunteers will leave for Guatemala in March.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[CDC Issues Updated Zika Guidelines ]]>Fri, 05 Feb 2016 21:00:03 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/175*120/TLMD-Microcefalia-GettyImages-507089272.jpg

 A Brazilian health official warned pregnant women to think twice before giving a kiss as global measures mounted Friday against the Zika virus suspected of a link to birth defects.

The U.N. human rights agency called for some nations to loosen strict laws against abortion and U.S. health authorities recommended men who have visited areas with the Zika virus use condoms if they have sex with pregnant women.

Paulo Gadelha, president of the Fiocruz research institute, said at a news conference that scientists have found live samples of the virus in saliva and urine samples, and the possibility it could be spread by the two body fluids requires further study.

He said that calls for special precaution to be taken with pregnant women, and suggested they avoid kissing people other than a regular partner or sharing cutlery, glasses and plates with people who have symptoms of the virus.

"This is not a generalized public health measure, for the love of God," he added.

Brazil plunged into Carnival season on Friday — a time when people commonly kiss strangers they meet at massive street parties.

Scientists at the Fiocruz institute say they're trying to determine if the body fluids can spread Zika to new patients.

The Center of Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden, responding to questions about Brazil's reaction to Friday's announcement, said it is the job of health officials to "provide people with all of the information and allow them to make their own choices."

"Because this is so knew, we are learning more about Zika daily," Frieden said during a teleconference Friday, noting that "we can't make assumptions about how Zika spreads from one individual case."

Meanwhile, U.S. health officials on Friday said men who have been to a Zika outbreak region should use condoms if they have sex with a pregnant woman — for the entire duration of the pregnancy.

The guidance, issued by the CDC, also said the men might consider abstaining or using condoms even during sex with a woman who isn't pregnant.

The CDC stressed that the Zika virus is still mainly spread by mosquitoes. In most people, it causes mild or no symptoms. But it has become a concern because of a possible link with a birth defect in Brazil.

The CDC has recommended that pregnant women postpone trips to countries with Zika outbreaks, mostly in Latin America and the Caribbean, though Frieden any country where reports of the virus are confirmed will be added to the list of affected areas. All travellers are advised to use insect repellent and take other steps to avoid mosquito bites.

The health agency also on Friday updated its guidelines for testing and monitoring pregnant women who have travelled to Zika areas. In the U.S., there have been about 50 cases of travellers diagnosed with the virus, including three pregnant women.To date, the mosquito-borne virus has spread to more than 20 countries in the Americas, including some where sexual violence is rampant.

"Zika reminds us that nature is a formidable enemy," Frieden said.

In Geneva, spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly said the OHCHR was asking governments in Zika-affected countries in Latin and South America to repeal any policies that break with international standards and restrict access to sexual and reproductive health services, including abortion.

"We are asking those governments to go back and change those laws," she said. "Because how can they ask those women not to become pregnant but also not offer them first information that is available, but the possibility to stop their pregnancies if they wish?"

Pouilly said that about a quarter of women had experienced physical or sexual violence in El Salvador in the past year.

"So that also shows that many of these pregnancies are out of their control and countries obviously have to take that into account," she said. Pouilly said that safe abortion services should be provided to the full extent of the law. "The key point is that women should have the choice and (make) informed decisions," she said. "Women should be able to have an abortion if they want."

NBC's Danielle Abreu contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[DCHHS Awaits Results on Four New Zika Tests]]>Thu, 04 Feb 2016 19:37:04 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZikaLab-GettyImages-506977656.jpg

Officials in North Texas have tested four additional patients for Zika virus and are awaiting the results, according to the Dallas County Health and Human Services.

The specimens were submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing. County health officials said the four cases are not connected to the previous two cases announced earlier this week and that they involve people who recently traveled out of the country.

The county's two previous Zika patients have fully recovered from the virus, according to the DCHHS. Those cases involved a person who traveled to Venezuela and had sexual contact with another person upon returning to Dallas, officials said. Not much is known about the Dallas patients except that neither was pregnant and there was no risk to a developing fetus.

County health officials conducted mosquito surveillance near where those patients lived and did not identify any mosquito activity.

The Zika virus is usually spread through mosquito bites. DCHHS said Tuesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the second Zika diagnosis, while the county health department confirmed through a follow-up interview with the patient that the virus had been sexually transmitted.

The CDC previously said it was aware of reports of the virus being spread through sexual contact, but had not confirmed the transmission method.

Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week, Dallas County health officials said.

The virus can have far more harmful effects on women who are infected while pregnant. Zika has led to reports of microcephaly in infants ad other "poor pregnancy outcomes," according to the CDC.

Those with symptoms, or those who have had sexual contact with someone who has symptoms, are urged to seek immediate medical care, to protect themselves from further mosquito bites and to avoid unprotected sexual contact.

NBC 5's Jocelyn Lockwood contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[CDC Issues Updated Zika Guidelines ]]>Fri, 05 Feb 2016 12:48:31 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/175*120/TLMD-Microcefalia-GettyImages-507089272.jpg

A Brazilian health official warned pregnant women to think twice before giving a kiss as global measures mounted Friday against the Zika virus suspected of a link to birth defects.

The U.N. human rights agency called for some nations to loosen strict laws against abortion and U.S. health authorities recommended men who have visited areas with the Zika virus use condoms if they have sex with pregnant women.

Paulo Gadelha, president of the Fiocruz research institute, said at a news conference that scientists have found live samples of the virus in saliva and urine samples, and the possibility it could be spread by the two body fluids requires further study.

He said that calls for special precaution to be taken with pregnant women, and suggested they avoid kissing people other than a regular partner or sharing cutlery, glasses and plates with people who have symptoms of the virus.

"This is not a generalized public health measure, for the love of God," he added.

Brazil plunged into Carnival season on Friday — a time when people commonly kiss strangers they meet at massive street parties.

Scientists at the Fiocruz institute say they're trying to determine if the body fluids can spread Zika to new patients.

The Center of Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden, responding to questions about Brazil's reaction to Friday's announcement, said it is the job of health officials to "provide people with all of the information and allow them to make their own choices."

"Because this is so knew, we are learning more about Zika daily," Frieden said during a teleconference Friday, noting that "we can't make assumptions about how Zika spreads from one individual case."

Meanwhile, U.S. health officials on Friday said men who have been to a Zika outbreak region should use condoms if they have sex with a pregnant woman — for the entire duration of the pregnancy.

The guidance, issued by the CDC, also said the men might consider abstaining or using condoms even during sex with a woman who isn't pregnant.

The CDC stressed that the Zika virus is still mainly spread by mosquitoes. In most people, it causes mild or no symptoms. But it has become a concern because of a possible link with a birth defect in Brazil.

The CDC has recommended that pregnant women postpone trips to countries with Zika outbreaks, mostly in Latin America and the Caribbean, though Frieden any country where reports of the virus are confirmed will be added to the list of affected areas. All travellers are advised to use insect repellent and take other steps to avoid mosquito bites.

The health agency also on Friday updated its guidelines for testing and monitoring pregnant women who have travelled to Zika areas. In the U.S., there have been about 50 cases of travellers diagnosed with the virus, including three pregnant women.To date, the mosquito-borne virus has spread to more than 20 countries in the Americas, including some where sexual violence is rampant.

"Zika reminds us that nature is a formidable enemy," Frieden said.

In Geneva, spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly said the OHCHR was asking governments in Zika-affected countries in Latin and South America to repeal any policies that break with international standards and restrict access to sexual and reproductive health services, including abortion.

"We are asking those governments to go back and change those laws," she said. "Because how can they ask those women not to become pregnant but also not offer them first information that is available, but the possibility to stop their pregnancies if they wish?"

Pouilly said that about a quarter of women had experienced physical or sexual violence in El Salvador in the past year.

"So that also shows that many of these pregnancies are out of their control and countries obviously have to take that into account," she said. Pouilly said that safe abortion services should be provided to the full extent of the law. "The key point is that women should have the choice and (make) informed decisions," she said. "Women should be able to have an abortion if they want."

NBC's Danielle Abreu contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[CDC Issues New Zika Virus Guidelines]]>Fri, 05 Feb 2016 12:42:24 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/CDC-generic.jpg

New guidelines regarding the Zika virus warn pregnant women, those who expect to become pregnant and their partners not to have unprotected sex for 28 days after returning from an area affected by the Zika virus.

"That's what we're hearing, and we think that's going to be excellent," said Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.

The new recommendations follow the sexually transmitted case of Zika in Dallas County, and were released Friday morning by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"If they travel into those areas, they should be using condoms when they get back here. They should practice safe sex," said Thompson.

The new guidelines are said to follow those already published in England for pregnant women, those who expect to be pregnant and their partners:

  • No unprotected sex for 28 days after returning from an area where Zika is being actively transmitted.
  • And no unprotected sex for six months after recovering from a Zika infection.

Pregnant women are already being advised against unnecessary travel to areas affected by Zika. New guidelines include:

  • Pregnant women and their male sex partners should discuss potential exposure and history of Zika-like illness with the pregnant woman's health care provider.
  • Men with a pregnant sex partner who have been to an area of active Zika virus transmission and their pregnant sex partners should use condoms during sex or abstain from sexual activity.
  • Couples in which a man resides in or has traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission may consider using condoms or abstaining from sexual activity.

CDC officials said it is not yet clear how long the risk should be avoided.

CDC also has updated its interim guidance for healthcare providers in the United States caring for pregnant women and women of reproductive age with possible Zika virus exposure. The updated guidelines recommend that pregnant women without symptoms of Zika virus disease can be offered testing 2 to 12 weeks after returning from areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission.

New recommendations for women who are pregnant or of reproductive age who reside in areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission include:

  • For pregnant women experiencing Zika-like symptoms, testing is recommended at the time of illness.
  • For pregnant women not experiencing Zika-like symptoms, testing is recommended when women begin prenatal care. Follow-up testing is also recommended.
  • For women of reproductive age, healthcare providers should discuss strategies to prevent unintended pregnancy.
  • Local health officials will need to determine when to implement testing recommendations for pregnant women without symptoms based on local levels of Zika virus transmission and local laboratory capacity.

]]>
<![CDATA[Mother Opens Up About Son's Microcephaly]]>Fri, 05 Feb 2016 12:21:58 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Wisconsin.jpgThe Zika virus is drawing worldwide attention to a devastating birth defect that until now has gotten little public notice. A Wisconsin mother is all too familiar with the condition; her infant son has microcephaly.]]><![CDATA[Zika Virus Case Confirmed in Travis County: Health Officials]]>Fri, 05 Feb 2016 10:21:11 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika-thumb.jpg

Health officials say a travel-related case of Zika virus has been confirmed in Travis County.

A statement from the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department Thursday says that an Austin man younger than 50 contracted the virus while travelling to Colombia, and is the county's first positive case.

Department spokeswoman Carole Barasch said that the man was not taken to a hospital and recovered at home.

The virus is mainly transmitted by mosquito. Zika has been spreading quickly in parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. The virus causes no more than a mild illness in most people but has been linked to a spike in a rare birth defect in Brazil.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that pregnant women consider postponing trips to outbreak regions until more is known.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

]]>
<![CDATA[What to Know: Zika Virus Spreads in Americas]]>Tue, 02 Feb 2016 16:11:00 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/AP_670850476149-zika.jpgThe spreading of the Zika virus has caused worldwide concern. Health officials think Zika might be connected to the rise in birth defects in the Americas, though it has not yet been proven. WHO has declared the crisis a global emergency.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[The Latest on the Zika Virus]]>Thu, 04 Feb 2016 12:39:07 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika-virus-color1.jpg

The Latest on the mosquito-born Zika virus, which is linked to brain deformities in babies (all times CDT):

WEDNESDAY

7 p.m.
The head of the Pan American Health Organization says more resources are needed quickly if the region is to fight the Zika outbreak.

Carissa Etienne told health ministers from Latin America holding an emergency meeting in Uruguay on Wednesday that every nation in the region needs to devote more money to expand mosquito control campaigns, bolster health services and educate the public on the dangers.

Etienne says governments also must do more to track the spread of Zika as well as suspected complications from the virus, including microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome. Brazilian researchers suspect the explosive spread of Zika is tied to an increase in microcephaly and Guillain-Barre cases, though scientists have not yet proven a link.

Etienne also told the ministers they should act now even though there is not yet a complete understanding of Zika. In her words: "One fact of which we are unequivocally sure is that the Zika virus--like dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever viruses--is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The most effective control measures are the prevention of mosquito bites and the reduction of mosquito populations."

4:50 p.m.
Brazil's president says Zika virus has gone from a "distant nightmare" to a "real threat" against the Brazilian people.

In a pre-recorded, prime time television address Wednesday, Dilma Rousseff calls on citizens to unite to combat the mosquito that transmits the virus, which researchers in Brazil have linked to a rare birth defect. She describes concrete measures people can take to eliminate the mosquito's breeding grounds in their homes.

She also has "words of comfort" for the women who have given birth to babies with the birth defect, microcephaly, saying: "We will do everything, absolutely everything, to protect you."

She says the government iss mobilizing to develop a vaccine but insists that until it's ready, the best course of action remains to prevent the mosquito from breeding.

4:15 p.m.
The agency responsible for most of Canada's blood supply says people who have traveled outside of Canada, the continental United States and Europe will be ineligible to give blood for 21 days after their return.

Canadian Blood Services says it is implementing the waiting period to mitigate the risk of the Zika virus entering the Canadian blood supply.

In a release Wednesday, the agency said the new waiting period is being implemented across the country and will take full effect in all of its clinics starting on Feb. 5.

Quebec's blood operator, Hema-Quebec, will be implementing the same change as of this Sunday.

Canadian Blood Services says the 21-day period ensures enough time has passed for the virus to be eliminated from a person's bloodstream, but it is asking people to postpone donation for at least a month after returning from travel outside the specified zones.

"This new temporary deferral period will safeguard Canada's blood supply against the Zika virus, and will also help us protect against other similar mosquito-borne viruses," Dr. Dana Devine, chief medical and scientific officer for Canadian Blood Services, said in a statement.

4:05 p.m.
International health officials tell The Associated Press that Brazil has yet to share enough samples and disease data needed to answer the most worrying question about the Zika outbreak: whether the virus is actually responsible for the increase in the number of babies born with abnormally small heads in Brazil.

The lack of data is frustrating efforts to develop diagnostic tests, drugs and vaccines. Laboratories in the United States and Europe are relying on samples from previous outbreaks. Scientists say having so little to work with is hampering their ability to track the virus' evolution.

One major problem appears to be Brazilian law. At the moment, it is technically illegal for Brazilian researchers and institutes to share genetic material including blood samples containing Zika and other viruses.

3:35 p.m.
A U.S. travel alert has been issued for two more destinations because of the Zika virus.
Health officials Wednesday added Jamaica and Tonga in the South Pacific to the list of places with outbreaks where travelers should protect themselves against the mosquito-borne virus.

There are now 30 travel destinations on the list, most of them in Latin America or the Caribbean.

The government recommends that pregnant women postpone trips to those destinations because of a suspected link between the virus and a birth defect, seen mostly in Brazil.

3:15 p.m.
Member countries of the Central American Integration System have agreed to implement a regional action plan to fight the Zika virus in the coming days.

Salvadoran Public Health Minister Violeta Menjivar says the foreign and health ministers of Central American countries and the Dominican Republic agreed to the plan in a video conference on Wednesday.

The ministers also agreed to mobilize the population, public institutions and private organizations to destroy mosquito breeding sites and take measures to prevent bites, especially of pregnant women.

Menjivar, who early participated in the World Health Organization conference, said "the most important effort must be the destruction of (mosquito) breeding grounds, nothing is more important."

2:15 p.m.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a health emergency in four counties of the state because of the Zika virus. At least nine cases of the mosquito-borne illness have been detected in Florida.

Health officials believe all of the cases are from people who contracted the disease while traveling to affected countries. Scott signed the order Wednesday to cover Miami-Dade, Lee, Hillsborough and Santa Rosa counties. The Zika virus is linked to brain deformities in babies and is causing concern among public health officials worldwide. The virus is primarily spread through mosquito bites, but investigators had been exploring the possibility it could be sexually transmitted.

U.S. health officials say a person in Texas became infected with Zika through sex in the first case of the illness being transmitted within the United States.

2 p.m.
Brazil's Health Ministry is calling for deeper investigation into studies on the transmission of Zika, following reports out of Texas that the virus had been spread through sex. The Health Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that "until now, there is no proof of the transmission of Zika through sexual relations." The ministry underscored its longstanding recommendation of condom use to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. U.S. health officials said Tuesday a person in Texas became infected with Zika through sex. The World Health Organization says that the reported case of sexually transmitted Zika virus is raising concerns.

1:40 p.m.
Brazil's health regulator Anvisa is authorizing the registry of laboratory tests that can detect the dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses. Anvisa spokesman Carlos Lopes said from Brasilia on Wednesday that two tests will be able to spot all three viruses using antibodies from the illnesses, and several months after a person has been infected. Two other tests can identify the viruses but only one at a time and only if the person was infected while being tested. Lopes says the tests are expected to help improve the accuracy of diagnoses between the three viruses that are transmitted by the same Aedes aegypti mosquito. A German and a Brazilian lab are now in charge of the registry to carry out the tests before the Brazilian government distributes it to other accredited labs.

1:30 p.m.
Mexico has launched a radio and television ad campaign to encourage pregnant women to take measures to avoid getting Zika. Mexico has only 37 confirmed cases, none of them among pregnant women. But the Health Department says pregnant women should take special care after babies were born in Brazil with extremely small heads, possibly related to their mothers being infected with the Zika virus. The broadcast ads urge pregnant women to wear long-sleeved clothing, use mosquito repellant and keep windows and doors closed. The ads are scheduled to run at least through March, and tell women the disease "could seriously affect your pregnancy."

11:40 a.m.
Latin American health ministers meeting in Uruguay are focusing on why Zika has been linked to birth defects in Brazil but not in other countries where the virus has been detected. Colombian Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria told The Associated Press Wednesday that researchers need to look at what may be fueling the differences in manifestations. He gave the example of Colombia, where 20,000 cases of Zika have been confirmed but not a single case of microcephaly, or smaller than normal head size in infants. Brazilian officials have recorded 3,670 suspected cases of microcephaly since October. Brazil's Heath Ministry says the rare brain defect in babies has been confirmed in 404 of those cases. Infants with microcephaly have smaller than normal heads and their brains do not develop properly.

11 a.m.
The World Health Organization says a reported case of sexually transmitted Zika virus is raising concerns. Spokesman Gregory Hartl says WHO is organizing and supporting research about the mostly mosquito-borne virus and "under what conditions is it transmitted and via which routes other than the mosquito route." Speaking in Geneva on Wednesday, Hartl said that for now WHO believes nearly all of cases are caused by transmission by mosquitoes. Zika has been linked to birth defects in the Americas. U.S. health officials say a person in Texas became infected with Zika through sex, in the first case of the illness being transmitted within the United States amid the current outbreak in Latin America. WHO says it has not yet issued any guidance on possible prevention of sexual transmission of Zika.

10:30 a.m.
The director of the Pan American Health Organization is saying that confirmation that the Zika virus can be transmitted sexually would change the paradigm of the quickly spreading epidemic.

Carissa Etienne made the comments Wednesday in Uruguay while attending an emergency meeting of health ministers from Latin America. Health officials in the U.S. state of Texas said Tuesday that a patient there acquired Zika through sex with an ill person who returned from Venezuela, where the virus was present. The Zika virus is usually spread through mosquito bites.

Etienne says that the Texas case has not been discussed at the summit. However, she wants to see a formal report on the case and study it further. In her words, "Obviously it would bring a new dimension to the Zika problem."

10:20 a.m.
Brazil's Butantan Institute is seeking to develop a vaccine to combat the Zika virus by adapting an existing one for dengue. The Sao Paulo-based institute is spearheading research against the Zika virus that has  quickly spread throughout Brazil and the rest of Latin America. Butantan's Director Jorge Kalil says the technology that was developed in the Brazilian vaccine against dengue could be modified. He says one of the possibilities would be to add a gene containing a key protein in the Zika virus. Another alternative would be to create an attenuated Zika virus using a method similar to the one in the development of the dengue vaccine. Kalil's comments were published Wednesday on the official news agency of the Research Support Foundation of the State of Sao Paulo.

10:10 a.m.
A World Health Organization's spokesman says it's time for science to "step up" and tackle the "the very concerning" cases of microcephaly that could be linked to the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Christian Lindmeier made the comments on Wednesday, a day after the U.N. health agency declared Zika a global public health emergency. No vaccine exists. Speaking via Skype from Geneva to British broadcaster Sky News, Christian Lindmeier also urged people to "keep everything on a rational level" because "not every mosquito you see flying around on the wall is an infected mosquito." Zika has been linked to brain deformities in babies in Latin America. Several thousand cases of microcephaly have been reported in Brazil since October, although researchers have so far not proven a definitive link to the virus.

9 a.m.
Argentina is reporting a second person in the country is confirmed to be infected with Zika. The health ministry in the central Cordoba province said Wednesday that the patient is a 68-year-old man who was infected abroad. He is known to have recently traveled to Venezuela's Margarita Island.  The provincial health ministry says he's evolving well. Argentine authorities confirmed last week that a Colombian woman who lives in Buenos Aires had been infected with the Zika virus. Officials say the 23-year-old woman became ill while in Colombia.

8 a.m.
Ireland has reported its first two cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus but says both patients are in good condition and neither is pregnant. Wednesday's statement from the Health Service Executive of Ireland declined to identify either patient. The agency says both patients were unrelated, had recently returned to Ireland from countries where the virus is prevalent, and were recovering well from their fever. Zika is not typically lethal in adults but is linked to birth defects, making the virus particularly dangerous for pregnant women. Irish authorities say they expect to detect more Zika cases in Ireland, partly because of the substantial volume of Irish aid workers who fly back and forth from developing countries.

7:30 a.m.
France's health minister says two French regions in the Caribbean are facing an epidemic of the Zika virus, and the government is sending extra hospital equipment and preparing extra medical staff to combat it. Marisol Touraine told reporters Wednesday that Martinique and French Guiana have had 2,500 potential cases and about 100 confirmed Zika cases since mid-December, including 20 pregnant women and two people suffering a temporary paralysis condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome. A few cases have been reported in Guadeloupe and Saint Martin, also part of the French Caribbean. Nine people have come to mainland France with Zika this year, but Touraine said there is no risk of epidemic on the mainland. She said the government will expand access to testing and recommend condom use in the region.

TUESDAY

1:30 a.m.
Hours after reporting Chile's first confirmed Zika infection, Chilean authorities have listed two more cases from the virus that is spreading rapidly in Latin America. The Chilean Health Ministry says all three Zika cases reported Tuesday were contracted outside Chile. It says one person was infected while traveling in Venezuela, one in Colombia and one in Brazil. All are recovering. Chile doesn't have infestations of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can carry such diseases as Zika, dengue and chikungunya. The World Health Organization says Zika is likely to spread to every country in the Americas where the Aedes aegypti is found. That is every nation but Canada and Chile.

12:15 a.m.
Brazilian officials have lowered the country's number of suspected microcephaly cases, to 3,670 from 3,893 on Jan. 20. Brazil's Heath Ministry says the rare brain defect in babies has been confirmed in 404 of those cases. The ministry says microcephaly cases since Oct. 22 have been confirmed in 156 cities in nine states, most in Brazil's impoverished northeast. That region is the epicenter of the outbreak of the Zika virus. The report published Tuesday says 17 of the 404 confirmed microcephaly cases have been linked to Zika infections. Infants with microcephaly have smaller than normal heads and their brains do not develop properly. Many fetuses with the condition are miscarried, and others die during birth or shortly after. Those who survive suffer from developmental and health problems.

10:50 p.m.
The Brazilian Health Ministry says Brazil's health minister and the U.S. secretary of health and human Services have discussed ways the two countries can work together to create a vaccine against the Zika virus and combat the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits the virus. An emailed statement from the ministry says the Health Minister Marcelo Castro and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathes Burwell talked by phone Tuesday. It says the two also agreed to accelerate current investigations into infections causes by arboviruses like Zika that may be linked to cases of microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome. The statement says technicians of the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet with technicians of the Brazilian Health Ministry and of three biomedical and clinical research centers. The meeting is scheduled for Feb. 20 in Brazil.

10:20 p.m.
A Brazilian city is cancelling its Carnival celebrations and will use the money set aside for the annual festivities to fight the mosquito that carries the fast-spreading Zika virus and other diseases. The Capivari municipality in Sao Paulo state says on its website that the $25,000 saved will be spent on prevention measures, including eradicating mosquito breeding grounds. Carnival is Brazil's biggest popular party. But the Zika virus has recently been linked with a spiraling rise in reported cases of microcephaly -- a rare birth defect causes babies to be born with unusually small heads and can lead to lasting developmental problems. Brazil's government has sent about 220,000 troops to battle the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

9:30 p.m.
Health officials say a patient in Dallas County, Texas, has acquired the Zika virus through sex.
Dallas County Health and Human Services said Tuesday it received confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The patient was infected after having sexual contact with an ill person who returned from a country where Zika was present. The Zika virus is usually spread through mosquito bites. Investigators have been exploring the possibility the virus also can be spread through sex. It was found in one man's semen in Tahiti, and there was report of a Colorado researcher who caught the virus overseas and apparently spread it to his wife back home in 2008. Health officials note there are no reports of Zika being locally transmitted by mosquitoes in Dallas county.

9:05 p.m.
Nicaragua is confirming its first two cases of the Zika virus in pregnant women. Government spokeswoman Rosario Murillo says four women have tested positive for the virus in the Central American nation, including two who are three and one-half and four months pregnant. That brings the country's total known cases of Zika to 15. Murillo says the country is monitoring World Health Organization recommendations and has directed local health authorities to pay close attention to pregnant women who may have contracted Zika. She noted Tuesday that not all pregnant women infected with Zika give birth to babies with the rare condition known as microcephaly.

8:45 p.m.
Chile is reporting its first case of a person infected with the Zika virus that has spread fast throughout Latin America. The Chilean Infectology Society confirmed the case Tuesday without providing any details about the patient. It only said that the virus had been transmitted while the person was abroad and that it was first recorded several weeks ago. There are no cases of local infection so far. Some Chilean travelers have been suspected of carrying the virus but this is Chile's first confirmed case of someone infected abroad. The World Health Organization says Zika is likely to spread to every country in the Americas where the mosquito that carries it can be found except for Canada and continental Chile.

8 p.m.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is promising that no resources will be spared in the fight against the quickly spreading Zika virus, believed to be the cause of smaller than normal heads in some infants. Rousseff addressed Congress on Tuesday, the day after the World Health Organization deemed the virus an international emergency. Researchers believe that a spike in cases of microcephaly, or babies born with small heads, has been caused by the virus. The president says: "resources will not be lacking." She has recounted what Latin America's most populous country had done since the outbreak was detected last year, such as sending troops to spray areas infested by mosquitoes. Rousseff is facing impeachment proceedings and low popularity amid an economic crisis, but says she expects Congress' support.

6:55 p.m.
Swiss International Air Lines says female flight attendants and pilots won't be required to fly to Sao Paulo, Brazil, if they don't want to because of the Zika virus outbreak. The Swiss carrier, a subsidiary of Germany's Lufthansa, says in a statement that it's advising any pilot or member of cabin crew who is "in the phase of family planning" to speak with their gynecologist before flying to Brazil. Tuesday's statement said the company will "until further notice" take into account requests of such employees who ask not to be deployed to Brazil. Sao Paulo is Swiss' main destination in South America. The World Health Organization on Monday declared a global emergency over the explosive spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects in the Americas.

2:20 p.m.
UNICEF is asking for $9 million for its programs in the Americas to curb the spread of Zika virus and lessen its impact on babies and their families across the region. In a statement issued on Tuesday, the U.N. children's agency said it would focus on educating communities in Brazil on how to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes and how to wipe out their breeding sites. Dr. Heather Papowitz, UNICEF's senior adviser for health emergencies, commented: "Although there is still no conclusive evidence of the causal link between microcephaly and the Zika virus, there is enough concern to warrant immediate action,"

11:50 a.m.
The Middle East's biggest airline is offering refunds to passengers booked on flights to countries  affected by the Zika virus. Emirates said in a statement Tuesday there is "no impact on operations" for flights from its Dubai base to three South American cities: Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is nonetheless offering passengers the chance to get refunds or rebook to alternative destinations in the Americas, saying "special provisions have been put in place for customers advised to avoid the affected regions based on CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidance." The offer covers tickets issued by Jan. 29 for travel through April 30. Fast-growing Emirates has emerged as a major long-haul carrier, and is the biggest operator of the Boeing 777 and the double-decker Airbus A380.

11:40 a.m.
Officials say laboratory tests have confirmed a fourth case Zika virus in Spain.
The southeastern regional government of Murcia said Tuesday that tests carried out by the National Microbiology Center confirmed the case of a man treated two weeks ago at a regional hospital after visiting an unspecified country affected by the virus. The man, who was not identified but was said to be middle-aged and a Spanish resident, has been given the all clear after been treated for the virus and to avoid contagion. The other three cases in Spain also concerned people who had traveled to affected regions in Latin America. WHO is recommending that visitors and residents in affected areas, especially pregnant women, take measures to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes that transmit the virus.

9:15 a.m.
Drugmaker Sanofi Pasteur says it is launching an effort to research and develop a vaccine to prevent the Zika virus. Sanofi's announcement Tuesday comes the day after the World Health Organization declared a global emergency over the explosive spread of the mosquito-borne virus, which has been linked to birth defects in the Americas. There is no treatment or vaccine for Zika, which is in the same family of viruses as dengue. Sanofi made the first licensed dengue vaccine shot, licensed last year in Brazil after years of scientific struggle to develop one. France-based Sanofi said in a statement Tuesday that its experience with the dengue vaccine "can be rapidly leveraged to help understand the spread" of Zika and "potentially speed identification of a vaccine candidate for further clinical development."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: NBC News]]>
<![CDATA[Brazil Sprays to Curb Zika as Fears Threaten Carnival]]>Thu, 04 Feb 2016 21:01:18 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika-GettyImages-506931512.jpg

Health department workers are spending the week spraying insecticide up and down the streets of Brazil's major cities, trying to kill as many mosquitoes as possible before Carnival. The giant festival of parades, music and dancing attracts millions of visitors from around the world.

As crowds pour into Recife airport, they're met with bands and warnings, according to NBC News. Staffers in mosquito-decorated T-shirts offer information about the Aedes aegypti mosquito that's spreading the virus across Latin America and the Caribbean.

"In a couple of days we will have about 1.5 million people on these streets during Carnival," said Jailson Correia, health secretary for the northeastern coastal metropolis. 



Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Brazil Health Officials Confirm Zika Spread Via Transfusion]]>Thu, 04 Feb 2016 17:37:52 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/BoodTransfusion-GettyImages-151048640.jpg

Two people in southeastern Brazil contracted the Zika virus through blood transfusions, a municipal health official said Thursday, presenting a fresh challenge to efforts to contain the virus on top of the disclosure of a case of sexual transmission in the United States.

The two unrelated cases in Brazil may be the first of people contracting Zika via blood transfusions in the current outbreak, though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with other health bodies, have said that Zika could be spread via blood transfusions.

That concern led the U.S. Red Cross to announce it is asking travelers to Zika outbreak countries to wait at least 28 days before donating blood. Canadian officials said that people who have traveled outside of Canada, the continental United States and Europe won't be able to give blood for 21 days after their return.

Brigina Kemp, a top health official in the Brazilian city of Campinas, told The Associated Press that a gunshot victim and a transplant patient each tested positive for Zika after receiving blood transfusions from different donors.

Kemp said staff at the University of Campinas' hospital first noticed something was wrong in the middle of last year, when Brazil's first cases of Zika were beginning to be reported. Generally so mild that it only causes symptoms in about one out of five cases, Zika began to raise alarm bells after doctors here started to notice a possible link between the virus — spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito — and the terrible birth defect microcephaly.

The hospital staff noticed abnormal blood work on a young gunshot wound victim who spent months at the facility. The patient received dozens of blood transfusions from 18 donors between February and May 2015, when he died.

Because the region was in the throes of a dengue outbreak at the time, the staff suspected that disease, which is closely related to Zika, and tested him for it, Kemp said. But the tests came back negative and the blood sample was shelved.

But when an organ transplant patient tested positive for Zika after developing a fever, the hospital's blood bank staff started looking for other possible Zika cases and tests on the gunshot victim's blood samples came back positive.

Transfusions in the two cases were traced to separate donors who had Zika, both of whom reported having suffered symptoms days after they gave blood.

The blood bank then informed Sao Paulo's Adolfo Lutz Institute, which also tested the samples and informed Campinas' health department of the results last month.

The Health Ministry said in an email to The Associated Press, that while the case of the gunshot victim was not yet part of a scientific study, "the case is among multiple investigations under way into the behavior of the virus."

Dante Langhi, president of the Brazilian Association of Hematology and Hemotherapy, told the AP that an academic paper about the transplant case was slated to be published shortly in a specialized medical journal.

Langhi said he had been told that researchers investigating the transplant case had determined that the patient contracted Zika through the transfusion, and not through a bite by the Aedes mosquito that is the virus' main vector.

"The situation must be evaluated and discussed by technical and government authorities," Langhi said.

Meanwhile, a Brazilian health workers union called off a strike set to start Thursday because it could affect the country's battle against Zika.

The union's members include workers who go door-to-door in Rio de Janeiro trying to eradicate the mosquito.

The union had threatened to strike if the national health ministry failed to meet demands for better work conditions by Thursday. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: UIG via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[3 Zika Cases Confirmed in DC]]>Thu, 04 Feb 2016 18:36:54 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/180*120/zika-GettyImages-506975094.jpg

A pregnant woman is one of the three confirmed cases of the Zika virus in the District of Columbia, according to the Department of Health.

Each individual who contracted the virus traveled outside the United States, officials said. One patient who caught the virus in 2015 had visited South America.

In the two cases stemming from 2016, including the pregnant woman, one traveled to South America and another traveled to Central America, according to health officials.

“The DC Department of Health (DOH) is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor and track Zika virus infections in DC residents," a statement from DOH read. "It is important for residents to remember that there is no immediate threat to their health and well-being if they have not traveled to the known affected areas. However, we must all stay well informed and be cautious when traveling internationally. DOH has created a webpage that will be regularly updated, with a fact sheet on the Zika Virus and other key information to ensure that all DC residents are engaged and informed.”

Zika is transmitted from infected mosquitoes to people and from pregnant mothers to babies. The virus usually causes a mild illness, but babies born to mothers with the virus can have microcephaly, a condition associated with small, undeveloped brains. 

While the virus is not spread by casual human contact, health officials now say it could be sexually transmitted. Officials in Texas believe Zika may have been transmitted from a patient who contracted the virus abroad to a sexual partner.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now cautioning women to abstain from sex or use condoms if their male sexual partner has visited the affected countries. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Fla. Expands Zika Health Emergency]]>Thu, 04 Feb 2016 17:34:30 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/020416+zika+prevention+miami-dade.jpg

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has declared a health emergency over the Zika virus, announced three new cases Thursday and added Broward County to the list of affected regions.

One new case is located in Broward, while the other two are in Miami-Dade and Hillsborough, Scott said during a news conference.

There had previously been nine travel-associated cases of the Zika virus in Florida. Health officials believe all patients contracted the mosquito-borne disease while traveling to affected countries.

Scott declared a health emergency in four Florida counties on Wednesday. Broward's addition makes five.

At Thursday's news conference, Scott called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to take action to ensure Florida is prepared for the possible spread of Zika.

He also asked for at least 1,000 Zika antibody tests and said the state currently has the capacity to test only 475 people.

Miami-Dade health inspectors spent Thursday spreading awareness about Zika, along with mosquito prevention crews, who are also stepping up their efforts. 

Crews were out Thursday morning at a Westchester home looking for little things that hold standing water, like candle holders. A small amount of water is all it takes for mosquitos to multiply, according to the Miami-Dade County Department of Solid Waste Management.

"While we certainly have a proactive mosquito control program in Miami-Dade County, we can’t possibly be everywhere at once," deputy county mayor and DSWM Director Alina Hudak said in a statement. "That’s why it’s important for residents to check their properties and ensure there is no standing water, where mosquitoes can breed."

Miami-Dade Mosquito Control Crews said this time of year is not usually busy they've seen more calls because of the Zika virus.

"Around this time of year, we normally receive and average of maybe two or three calls a day, yesterday we received 56. That's a huge difference," said Chalmers Vasquez with Miami-Dade Public Works.



Photo Credit: NBC6.com]]>
<![CDATA[Top Airlines Offer to Re-Assign Crew From Zika-Hit Routes]]>Thu, 04 Feb 2016 11:34:18 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Plane-arriving-generic.jpg

United, Delta, Lufthansa and Air France are offering to re-assign certain flight crew concerned about going to Zika-affected countries, Reuters reported. 

The mosquito-borne virus for which there is no treatment or vaccine, has been linked to thousands of birth defects in Brazil.

In an internal memo on Jan. 28, seen by Reuters, United said expectant flight attendants as well as those seeking to become pregnant could switch routes to avoid Zika-affected regions without repercussions. The airline has similar options available for pilots, according to United spokesman. 

Delta Air Lines Inc has also let flight attendants and pilots switch assignments since Jan. 17, and "a small number of crew members have swapped trips to date," spokesman Morgan Durrant said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said pregnant women should consider delaying trips to Latin American and Caribbean countries newly affected by Zika. 
 



Photo Credit: NBCSanDiego]]>
<![CDATA[WHO Declares Zika Virus Global Emergency]]>Tue, 02 Feb 2016 12:33:27 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/AP_256601441416.jpg

The World Health Organization declared an international emergency on Monday over the explosive spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which is linked to birth defects in the Americas, saying it is an "extraordinary event."

The U.N. health agency convened an emergency meeting of independent experts in Geneva to assess the outbreak after noting a suspicious link between Zika's arrival in Brazil last year and a surge in the number of babies born with abnormally small heads.

"After a review of the evidence, the committee advised that the clusters of microcephaly and other neurological complications constitute an extraordinary event and public health threat to other parts of the world," WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said.

The organization said last week that the virus was “spreading explosively" and is now becoming more of a threat. Since Brazil reported its first case in 2015, the virus has been detected in 22 other countries and territories. WHO estimates there could be up to 4 million cases of Zika in the Americas in the next year.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no locally transmitted cases of the virus were reported in the United States. Health officials have found cases in travelers in several states, including New York, Massachusetts, Illinois and Texas.

The CDC says Zika is transmitted through infected mosquitoes. It can also be passed on from a pregnant mother to her child, which may result in a rare birth defect. Babies born with microcephaly, which causes babies to be born with an abnormally small head, have been increasing in Brazil. Although there is no definitive proof that the virus is in any way related to birth defects, WHO says it “strongly” suspects a causal relationship.

The illness is usually mild, according to the CDC, and those infected don't realize they have the virus. Symptoms include rash, fever and joint pain. 

Experts said they are are currently working on a vaccine that could be ready for clinical trials by the end of the year. But a widely available vaccine won't be ready for several years.

"It is to our advantage we already have existing vaccine platforms to use as a sort of jumping off point," said Dr. Tony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). 

Concern over the spread of the illness has prompted worldwide concern.

Athletes preparing for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio say they’re taking precautions, including staying indoors and using mosquito repellent. The IOC issued a warning to all national Olympic committes to prepare for and address the problem.

Airlines have been offering refunds to passengers for travel to Zika-affected areas, according to The Associated Press. 

Earlier this month, the CDC issued an alert, warning pregnant women to avoid countries where the virus was in active transmission. 

Anyone who believes they may have the virus is urged to get plenty of rest, drink liquids and see a doctor.

The last time such public health emergency was declared was for the devastating 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which killed more than 11,000 people. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Va. Woman Gets Zika on Mission Trip]]>Thu, 04 Feb 2016 00:01:50 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/020316+zika+heather+baker.jpg

A Virginia mother of three has been diagnosed with the first known case of the Zika virus in the state after traveling to Guatemala on a mission trip.

Longtime missionary Heather Baker, who lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia, was confirmed last week to have contracted the virus. She told News4 she knew something was wrong starting in late November, when she returned from a trip to Guatemala, her fourth such trip in the past year and a half.

"It began with just a swollen lymph node, which definitely tipped me off that something was coming, and then progressed to some body aches and a really weird rash and joint pain," Baker said.

She initially was tested for another illness, but those results came back negative. After talking with friends in Guatemala, she decided to get tested for Zika. State Department of Health officials told her last week she has the virus.

Zika is transmitted from infected mosquitoes to people, from infected pregnant mothers to babies and possibly through sexual activity, according to ongoing research. Babies born to mothers with the virus can have microcephaly, a condition associated with small, undeveloped brains.

Although Zika is not airborne or easily spread, Baker said she's being extra cautious. She said she stopped sharing drinks or food with her children, and canceled a massage and nail salon appointments.

"We're just being very careful because there are so many unknowns," she said.

Baker advised women who are pregnant or hope to get pregnant to avoid travel to affected regions, echoing experts' advice.

"If you have a trip planned to one of these area, just postpone it," she said. "Find something to do local."

The Centers for Disease Control plans to release guidance soon on how to prevent sexual transmission of Zika.

"We have to have a healthy respect for this virus, but I don't think we have to be unduly alarmed just yet," Georgetown University infectious disease expert Paul Rope said.

Baker likely contracted Zika in Central America, but she said when she is fully recovered, she plans to return there to continue her missionary work.



Photo Credit: NBC4]]>
<![CDATA[2nd Zika Virus Case in Dallas Co; Spread Through Sex]]>Wed, 03 Feb 2016 09:11:38 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zika+virus2.jpg

A Dallas County resident has become the first Zika patient to contract the virus in the U.S. without traveling abroad, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. County health officials said the patient was infected through sexual contact, not through a mosquito bite.

Dallas County Health and Human Services said the patient was infected after having sexual contact with an individual who developed symptoms after returning from a trip to Venezuela. The individual from Venezuela is also infected with the virus. Both patients have fully recovered from the infection, health officials said Wednesday.

"A person who recently traveled to an area with Zika virus transmission returned to the United States and developed Zika-like symptoms. The person later tested positive for Zika, along with their sexual partner, who had not traveled to the area," the CDC said in a statement.

Neither is pregnant. Both are thought to still be in Dallas County.

DCHHS said Tuesday that the CDC confirmed the Zika test and that the county health department confirmed the virus was transmitted sexually through a follow-up interview with the patient. The CDC’s statement did not confirm or rule out that the virus was transmitted sexually.

“Now that we know Zika virus can be transmitted through sex, this increases our awareness campaign in educating the public about protecting themselves and others,” said Zachary Thompson, DCHHS director. “Next to abstinence, condoms are the best prevention method against any sexually-transmitted infections.”

The Zika virus is usually spread through mosquito bites. The CDC previously said it was aware of reports of the virus being spread through sexual contact, but had not confirmed the transmission method. While exploring the possibility the virus could be spread through sex, investigators found the virus in one man's semen in Tahiti, and there was report of a Colorado researcher who caught the virus overseas and apparently spread it to his wife back home in 2008, according to The Associated Press.

There are no reports of the virus being spread locally by mosquitoes, though local transmission by mosquitoes is possible with the virus now known to be in North Texas, according to the county. Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Children's Health, said infected people could infect the mosquitos and "start the transmission cycle."

"And once that occurs, it's almost impossible to get the virus out of the population," he said.

Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting several days to a week, Dallas County health officials said.

The virus can have far more harmful effects on women who are infected while pregnant. Zika has led to reports of microcephaly in infants ad other "poor pregnancy outcomes," according to the CDC.

Those with symptoms, or those who have had sexual contact with someone who has symptoms, are urged to seek immediate medical care, to protect themselves from further mosquito bites and to avoid unprotected sexual contact.

The CDC said it has no definitive information on the infectious time period and will provide more guidance as it learns more about the virus.

There is no medication to treat Zika virus and there is no vaccine; the best prevention is to avoid mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected people. The recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus are the same for avoiding West Nile virus.

  • Dusk and Dawn: Stay inside if possible — mosquitoes are most active during dusk and dawn.
  • Dress in long sleeves, pants when outside: For extra protection, spray thin clothing with repellent.
  • DEET: Make sure this ingredient is in your insect repellent.
  • Drain standing water in your yard and neighborhood: Mosquitoes can develop in any water stagnant for more than three days.

Additionally, the CDC continues to recommend that pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant take the following precautions:

  • Pregnant women should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who must travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or other healthcare professional first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip. Pregnant women should also avoid exposure to semen from someone who has been exposed to Zika virus.
  • Women trying to become pregnant should consult with their healthcare professional if their partner has had exposure to Zika virus.

To date, there are seven other confirmed Zika cases in Texas, in Houston and Harris County. In each of those cases, the patient had traveled abroad to an area where Zika is present.

NBC 5's Kevin Cokely, Holley Ford and Todd L. Davis contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA[Zika Virus Scare Cancels Destination Weddings]]>Wed, 03 Feb 2016 23:51:39 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/180*120/zika-GettyImages-506975094.jpg

Travel agents are hearing from clients canceling travel plans because of the Zika virus.

"We're getting all sorts of questions," said Catherine Banks, with Legacy Travel in Plano, which specializes in destination weddings.

About 30 people in the past week have canceled nearly a dozen trips, including two destination weddings with pregnant brides, she said.

"Had one just an hour ago cancel, where the bride just found out she's pregnant and their wedding is in Jamaica, and so her doctor doesn't advise her to go," said Banks.

"And we've had lots of other weddings – guests of other weddings – where the bride isn't pregnant, but the weddings aren't going to go on," Banks added. "But individual guests may be pregnant, you know.

Everyone's in the same phase of life, people are getting married, having babies, and so you'll have guests that are pregnant and of course they call and cancel."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says pregnant women should consider postponing travel to Zika-affected areas, and those trying to become pregnant should talk with their doctor.

After two confirmed cases in Dallas County, one by sexual contact with the other, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued a statement, saying, "To minimize the risk of Zika virus infection passing to fetuses, pregnant women, women who may become pregnant or their partners should not travel to countries with reported Zika virus activity."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[North Texas Pregnant Women Worried About Zika]]>Wed, 03 Feb 2016 00:23:52 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/180*120/zika-GettyImages-507089272.jpg

As health officials confirm two cases of the Zika virus in Dallas County, North Texas pregnant women are calling their doctors looking for guidance.

Although yet to be proven, the Zika virus appears to be linked to hundreds of babies born with birth defects in South and Central America.

On Tuesday at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, mom-to-be Kelly Lewis expressed her concern.

"It's my first, so I'm five months," Lewis said. "I find myself more concerned about going out, doing things, whether it be catching a cold or catching anything like the flu."

Now she's worried about the Zika virus.

"It's very terrifying! It's very terrifying," Lewis said.

Her doctor has advised her not to take any trips to countries south of the United States.

"I am telling all of my pregnant patients not to traveling to areas where the Zika virus has been found," said Dr. Sheila Chhutani.

Chhutani said it's the unknown about the virus that scares most of her patients.

"Right now there is so much we don't know about it, and until more research is done I think it's better to be safe than sorry," she said. "Obviously no one wants to have a baby that has a birth defect, and so if there is something we can do to prevent that, we try to do that."

Chhutani said the best thing her patients and other pregnant women can do is to be smart.

Since there are no mosquitoes with the virus in North Texas, or the United States for that matter, there is an incredibly small risk for them to actually contract the virus.

"I'm not worried about my pregnant patients here. I'm more worried about them getting the flu or making sure they get their flu shots more than I am about the Zika virus," Chhutani said.

The best thing to do is avoid any places were Zika has been reported, and that is something Lewis will absolutely do.

"I'm staying right here. I'm staying put in the U.S.," she said.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Scientists: More Research Needed into Zika-Microcephaly Link]]>Thu, 28 Jan 2016 04:04:15 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZIKA_AP_815397555643.jpg

The release of new figures apparently finding fewer cases of microcephaly in Brazil than first feared is adding force to calls for more research into the link between the rare birth defect and the spreading Zika virus.

Health experts have been looking at 4,180 suspected cases of microcephaly reported since October in Brazil, where authorities said the birth defect could be linked to the virus and announced that 220,000 military personnel were being deployed to help eradicate the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits Zika.

But on Wednesday, Health Ministry officials said they had done a more intense analysis of more than 700 of those cases, confirming 270 cases and ruling out 462 others.

What this means is hard to say, according to some experts. It does not answer whether the tropical Zika virus is causing the babies to have unusually small heads. Nor does it really tell us how big the problem is.

"I don't think we should lower our alarm over the Zika outbreak," said Paul Roepe, co-director of Georgetown University's Center for Infectious Disease.

Brazilian officials still say they believe there's a sharp increase in cases of microcephaly and strongly suspect the Zika virus is to blame. The concern is strong enough that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month warned pregnant women to reconsider visits to areas where Zika is present, and officials in El Salvador, Colombia and Brazil have suggested women stop getting pregnant until the crisis has passed.

But the World Health Organization and others have stressed that any link between Zika and the defect remains circumstantial and is not yet proven scientifically. And the new figures were a reminder of just how little is known about the disease and its effects.

The arrival of the mosquito-borne illness in Brazil initially caused little alarm as the virus' symptoms are generally much milder than those of dengue. Then late last year, after noting what they said was a spike in the birth defect, Brazilian authorities for the first time asked doctors to report cases of patients in their care. So there are no solid numbers to compare with the new tally.

In 2014, only about 150 cases were reported in Brazil in a year — a surprisingly small amount for a large country with nearly 3 million births a year. The United States, with about 4 million births a year, has an estimated 2,500 cases of microcephaly a year, said Margaret Honein, a CDC epidemiologist.

Brazilian health officials have dismissed the idea there might have been a large number of unreported cases previously. But the rate of recorded microcephaly cases was only a fraction of what some experts thought it ought to be.

In establishing a registry, the Health Ministry cast a wide net, including live births, stillborn and miscarried babies, and fetuses shown to have unusually small heads by ultrasound or other diagnostic tests, the ministry said. In subsequent investigations, tests were done to see if the brain had been affected.

Brazilian health officials did not detail what they found in the 462 cases that were ruled out, but many of them were just premature and under-sized, a health ministry spokeswoman said.

The birth defect can be caused by factors such as genetics, malnutrition or drugs. Infections are also a cause although Zika-like viruses have not previously been linked to microcephaly.

The CDC's Honein said shifts in the numbers reported out of Brazil were not surprising, and much more investigation is needed.

She was echoed by Dr. Ganeshwaran Mochida, a pediatric neurologist at Boston Children's Hospital who specializes in microcephaly.

He said 270 confirmed cases "is still quite a substantial number" in a country that has been reporting far lower counts.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Zika Virus May Cause Deadly Birth Defects: Officials]]>Sun, 06 Dec 2015 09:26:05 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/mosquito-AP_334068230276.jpg

A little-known virus spreading from Brazil into Central America may be causing deadly birth defects, NBC News reported.

The Pan American Health Organization, a branch of the World Health Organization, has issued an alert about the Zika virus, which health officials believe may be linked to the birth defect microcephaly, a medical condition in which the brain stops growing or fails to develop properly, according to NBC News.

NBC News reported that the number of microcephaly cases has doubled this year in Brazil.

The Zika virus is carried by the same mosquitoes that carry dengue and yellow fever and can also cause fever and muscle aches.



Photo Credit: AP/File]]>
<![CDATA[Officials Consider Travel Warning as Zika Virus Spreads]]>Thu, 14 Jan 2016 13:43:26 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ZikaVirus-AP_454991380590.jpg

U.S. health officials are considering a travel warning about a virus spreading across Latin America and the Caribbean that experts say could cause a catastrophic birth defect, NBC News reported.

"We are in the process of developing a travel warning not only for pregnant women, but for everybody," said Dr. Lyle Petersen of the Centers for Disease Control.

CDC are now deciding what they should tell people about Zika. Little is known about the virus, which is spread by mosquitoes. It is a cousin of dengue fever, and there is no vaccine or treatment for it.

Zika is said to cause a defect called microcephaly — an abnormally small head and brain — which can kill babies, cause miscarriages or severe and untreatable handicaps.  



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Pregnant Woman Has Zika: NYC]]>Fri, 29 Jan 2016 05:01:53 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/AP_256601441416.jpg

A pregnant woman was diagnosed with Zika virus after visiting a country stricken with the mosquito-borne illness that may cause birth defects, New York City health officials say. 

New York City Commissioner of Health Mary Bassett said that the woman was diagnosed with the virus recently, bringing the city's total of residents diagnosed with the disease to three. 

Four other people in New York have been diagnosed with the virus -- including one each in Monroe, Nassau, Suffolk and Orange Counties. 

Officials wouldn't say where the people had recently traveled, describing the locations as areas where the "virus transmission is ongoing." Bassett said that because of that, she reminded New Yorkers to be careful when picking winter vacation destinations. 

"This might be a good winter to think about a vacation in the Catskills," she said. 

One additional case has contracted the case after traveling to Colombia, health officials there say. No cases have been reported in Connecticut.

Health officials say there is virtually no risk of catching the virus in New York City because mosquitoes are not active in the winter but wanted to discuss measures New Yorkers can take when traveling to countries where the disease is prevalent.

The species of mosquito that transmits the virus is also not seen in the northeast, though it is prevalent in the southern United States.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has expanded its warning for pregnant women thinking of visiting 22 countries, most in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Countries where Zika transmission is ongoing include Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Cape Verde, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Samoa, Suriname, U.S. Virgin Islands, Venezuela, 

The virus has been linked with microcephaly which can leave affected newborns with unusually small heads and abnormal brain development. The condition can usually be observed via an ultrasound in the first trimester of pregnancy. 



Photo Credit: File - AP]]>
<![CDATA[Zika Virus Forces India's Tata Motors to Rename Car ]]>Tue, 02 Feb 2016 15:49:01 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/TATA-Motors-Logo-GettyImages-466901545.jpg

The Zika virus has hit India's Tata Motors, which has decided to rebrand a soon-to-be launched hatchback vehicle which was to have been called Zica, an abbreviation of "Zippy Car."

The car is to be shown for the first time on Wednesday at the Auto Expo 2016 on New Delhi's outskirts.

Tata Motors said in a statement Tuesday that the car would carry the Zica nameplate during the exhibition, but a new name will be announced in a few weeks.

It said the company decided to rebrand the car to empathize with the hardships caused by the outbreak of the Zika virus in many countries.

The World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus a global emergency because of its explosive spread across the Americas.

The Tata Group is one of India's largest and best-known conglomerates. Its more than 100 companies include Tata Motors, owner of the Jaguar-Land Rover brand; Tata Steel; Tata Consultancy Services; Tata Beverages, the maker of Tetley brand tea; and holdings in insurance, investment and telecommunications.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



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<![CDATA[Could We Have a Zika Vaccine Soon?]]>Sat, 30 Jan 2016 11:38:27 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/182*120/zika-peligro-8.jpg

Two potential methods for a vaccine against the Zika virus could be ready for clinical trials in people by the end of the year, but there will not be a widely available vaccine for several years, experts said this week, NBC News reported.

"It is to our advantage we already have existing vaccine platforms to use as a sort of jumping off point," said Dr. Tony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). 

The NIAID is currently pursuing at least two approaches to a Zika vaccine. The first being a DNA-based vaccine using a strategy similar to what was employed for the West Nile virus, Fauci told reporters. The second is a live vaccine, "building on similar and highly immunogenic approaches used for the closely related dengue virus."



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<![CDATA[Global Health Officials Scramble to Fight Zika Virus]]>Tue, 03 May 2016 15:00:22 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/TH-AP_191300382996.jpgThe Zika virus causes birth defects, including microcephaly and other brain issues, U.S. health officials confirmed for the first time in mid-April. "There is no longer any doubt that Zika causes microcephaly," said CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden. More than 4,000 cases of the virus have been recorded in Brazil as scientists continue to gather more information about the mosquito-borne disease, which has spread to dozens of countries in the Americas.

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<![CDATA[Dallas County Wants to Test for Zika Virus Locally]]>Tue, 26 Jan 2016 23:37:21 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Zika-Mosquitoes-AP_100665838820.jpgDallas County wants to be able to test for Zika virus locally, rather than sending blood samples to the CDC.

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