1st Zika-Related Infant Death in Texas Confirmed

     HOUSTON (CN) — Texas health officials on Tuesday announced the first Zika-related newborn death in the state.
     “The mother traveled to Latin America during her pregnancy where it is suspected she became infected, and delivered the baby in Harris County,” county health officials said in a statement.
     The baby girl, who died shortly after birth, had microcephaly and other defects associated with the mosquito-borne virus that is raising alarms in Florida, the only U.S. state where the virus has been confirmed to have been passed locally rather than imported from people who picked it up while traveling abroad. Florida health workers had confirmed 21 local Zika cases as of Tuesday and suspect the outbreak’s epicenter is a neighborhood in northern Miami.
     It is the second Zika-associated death reported in the continental United States.
     “We are devastated to report our first case of Zika-associated death and our hearts go out to the family. This is a travel-associated case, we know that prevention is key to reducing the risk of Zika virus infection. Harris County Public Health continues to actively work on protecting the community from mosquito-related diseases, but individuals must also protect themselves from getting bitten by mosquitoes locally and abroad,” Harris County Public Health director Umair A. Shah said in a statement.
     The agency urged residents to use insect repellant containing DEET, picaridin or lemon eucalyptus oil.
     Texas has yet to identify anyone who picked the virus up within its borders; all its reported cases are people who picked it up while traveling outside the continental U.S.
     “Texas has had 99 reported cases of Zika virus disease. The count includes three pregnant women, two infants infected before birth, and one person who had sexual contact with a traveler,” according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
     Harris County is home to the state’s most populous city, Houston, and health experts here believe the city is a prime target for rapid transmission of the virus.
     Zika is primarily passed to humans by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which pick it up by biting infected people. Though Zika-related deaths and birth defects are rare, there is no cure for the virus and the Aedes species prefers to live in heavily populated cities where it can feed on human blood and find plenty of its favorite breeding grounds: water-filled containers and tires.
     Because most people who contract Zika only experience a mild infection marked by flu-like symptoms, experts believe it is much more widespread than reported.

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