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Texas sees first locally transmitted case of the Zika virus

A woman in Cameron County who tested positive for the virus apparently contracted it from a mosquito bite.

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes can transmit the Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects, to humans. Officials say there have been no cases of mosquito-to-human transmission in Texas.

The first locally transmitted case of the Zika virus in Texas has been identified in the Rio Grande Valley, the Texas Department of State Health Services and Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday. 

Lab tests last week confirmed the infection of a woman in Cameron County, according to the announcement. The woman said she had not traveled to Mexico or anywhere else with ongoing Zika virus risks. Further investigation is needed to find out how and where she was infected. 

“We knew it was only a matter of time before we saw a Zika case spread by a mosquito in Texas,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, health services commissioner. “We still don’t believe the virus will become widespread in Texas, but there could be more cases, so people need to protect themselves from mosquito bites, especially in parts of the state that stay relatively warm in the fall and winter.”

Health workers from Cameron County and DSHS will be sweeping the area where the woman lives to educate the public about the virus and collect voluntary urine samples to determine if more people are infected. 

As of last week, Texas had 257 confirmed cases of Zika virus disease. However, all known cases were associated with travel. 

According to the news release, there are no other suspected cases of the virus in Texas at this time.

Following Monday's announcement, the the Texas Health and Human Services Commission issued a news release saying it will reinstate the Medicaid benefit for mosquito repellent. According to the release, the benefit will begin Tuesday and be in place through December "given the possibility of local transmission and risk of Zika in the local community."

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