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Border Counties Prepare For Local Zika Transmission

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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