By Samantha Smith
Rapid spread of the Zika virus in recent months has raised concern in Hays County over the projected health and welfare of its citizens if the virus spreads to North America.
For now, the virus seems to be restricted to the areas already on the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) travel warning list that includes Central and South America, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean islands and Mexico.
Currently there are no reported cases of the virus that have been locally acquired within the U.S. According to the CDC website, there have been 107 travel-associated Zika virus cases in the country.
Two such cases have been reported in Travis County, according to reports. There have been no reports at this time of Zika virus in Hays County.
But there have been nine documented cases of the virus that have been locally acquired within U.S. territories such as the commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and America Samoa.
The Zika virus is not deadly and most symptoms patients complain of are fever, rashes, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (pink eye).
According to the CDC, patients infected with the virus rarely die from the virus, but are typically sick for several days to a week. Once a patient is infected with the virus, however, he or she is likely to be protected from future infection.
The virus is dangerous to pregnant women because it attacks the unborn baby and can cause microcephaly, or a smaller than normal brain and head.
Officials at Seton Medical Center Hays in Kyle and the CDC urge citizens to exercise caution. Since the virus spreads quickly and symptoms can be so mild, a patient may not know they are even infected.
The virus is spread predominately by infected mosquitoes within the travel warning zones. The CDC encourages citizens in the U.S. to continue to remain vigilant as the virus can be transmitted sexually through a male partner has travelled to the CDC’s warning zones and been infected with Zika.
No information is yet known about whether an infected woman can transmit the virus through sexual intercourse.
There is no vaccine that exists to prevent the Zika virus and treatment is restricted to palliative care against the symptoms. President Barack Obama announced a request on Feb. 8 for $1.8 billion in emergency funds for research into a vaccine and public education about Zika to be distributed to several agencies involved to accelerate the process.
Spokesperson for Seton Medical Center, Steve Taylor, says that plans are in place through the county health department for community outreach on a massive scale in the event that Zika spreads to Hays County.
“In the case of large scale health issues, standardized responses are orchestrated by government entities, but that doesn’t seem to be imminent right now,” Taylor said.
He went on to say citizens in Kyle should watch the media coverage on the Zika virus closely for any updates.
In the meantime, Taylor encourages people to reduce the spread of mosquitoes by getting rid of any outside standing water, which is an ample breeding ground for the insects.