Health experts have determined that a Texas resident is currently infected with the Zika virus, which can be highly dangerous especially for expectant mothers.
The diagnosis was confirmed and revealed to the public on Monday, January 11. Apparently, the sick patient, who lives in Harris County, had traveled abroad, and that’s how he acquired the virus, which is transmitted through insect bites.
Normally, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, also a vector for spreading dengue fever, yellow fever and chikungunya, is the one that carries it.
Luckily, this perilous insect can only be found in subtropical and tropical regions, but the problem is that in some cases even Aedes albopictus (commonly known as the Asian tiger mosquito) has also been linked with such diseases, and its distribution is much higher than that of its relative.
Moe precisely, this type of mosquito can survive even in temperate climates, hibernating as the weather gets excessively cold. So far it has been identified across Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa, and it has also reached the United States.
At first it was discovered at the Port of Houston, and then its presence was detected in the South, along the Atlantic coast and even in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states.
Sightings were later reported in SoCal as well: initially authorities appeared successful in wiping out its population, but then the Asian tiger mosquito came back with a vengeance, being spotted in several counties, including Los Angeles, San Diego and Kern.
Given the fact that vectors for transmitting the Zika virus and similar disease are becoming so widespread across the United States, it’s not surprising that officials are at least slightly perturbed that one such infection was identified in Texas.
According to Dr. Peter Hotez, chief and founding dean at the National School of Tropical Medicine (within Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine), if mosquitoes off the Gulf coast eventually acquire the virus, New Orleans, Houston and other urban areas could be under threat.
Several factors could contribute to a devastating outbreak in this region: elevated temperatures, rampant impoverishment, and the high number of humid lowlands, which are ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
Normally, just around a quarter of all the people who contract the Zika virus show any disease manifestations, and these usually consist of mild fever, conjunctivitis, arthralgia (achy joints) and skin irritation.
However, among pregnant women the risks are much more severe: Zika infections, against which no immunization or effective cure has been found yet, have been linked to microcephaly.
This life-threatening congenital disorder causes the baby’s head and brain to be much smaller-sized than normal, which leads to speech delays, general learning disabilities, seizures, movement disorders, hyperactivity etc.
In Brazil, the prevalence of microcephaly has now soared to 4,000 per year, although in prior years just around 150 such conditions used to be diagnosed among newborns.
This alarming trend was proven to be a direct consequence of the Zika virus, when DNA pertaining to the virus was identified in the amniotic fluid of expectant mothers who eventually gave birth to kids suffering from microcephaly.
Given these dangers, US health experts are wary of Zika infections reported across the nation, and have warned those who take vacations in already affected regions to use mosquito repellents so as to avoid catching the virus.
Authorities have also been taking preemptive measures in order to ensure that such an outbreak doesn’t emerge in a local population of Asian tiger mosquitoes.
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