So far in 2017, Texas has seen 12 cases of Zika virus (includine one in Dallas County and one in Denton County). But since 2015, there have been 322 reported, almost all were individuals who traveled to a Zika-affected nation and then returned to Texas. Eventually, the virus is expected to spread to mosquitoes all over Texas and put more people at risk.
“It’s not if, but when we’ll see local transmission of the Zika virus in North Texas,” says Shantala Samart, MD, infectious disease specialist on the Methodist Mansfield Medical Center medical staff. Dr. Samart has been studying the virus and adds that each new discovery invites more questions about the long-term effects of Zika.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 1,471 completed pregnancies on the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry, 64 (4%) had birth defects, and 8 were pregnancy losses with birth defects. According to a separate CDC study, Zika can continue to replicate in infants’ brains even after birth.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated guidance for pre-pregnancy counseling and preventing sexual transmission of Zika. The CDC now recommends men with possible Zika exposure but no symptoms wait at least six months before attempting pregnancy with their partner.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that many states, especially "those along the Gulf Coast" could be at the highest risk for an outbreak of locally transmitted Zika. He believes Texas and Louisiana will see more locally-transmitted cases. Clinical trials to develop a Zika vaccine are underway, but Dr. Fauci says the earliest a vaccine might be available is 2018.
In early August 2016, the Centers for Disease Control released an updated interim plan for responding to locally acquired cases of Zika virus infection in the continental U.S. and Hawaii.
Infectious disease specialist Edward A. Dominguez, MD, FACP, FIDSA, on the medical staff at Methodist Dallas, believes south Texas is more likely to see the first cases in the state. He said in a 2016 WFAA interview the larger concern for North Texas is West Nile, but individuals traveling to Zika-infected regions run the risk of infecting others back home.
Microcephaly and Guillan-Barre Syndrome
In July 2016, Texas saw its first babyborn infected with Zika virus and with the birth defect of microcephaly. Harris County officials confirmed the baby's mother was infected in Latin America and passed the virus to her baby in the womb.
The CDC reported definitive evidence that Zika virus causes microcephaly and other birth defects in newborns, and neurological conditions in adults including Guillan-Barre Syndrome. Neurointensivist Gregg Shalan, MD, JD, on the Methodist Dallas medical staff, discussed the syndrome with WFAA and why it should be taken seriously.
Symptoms of Zika virus
About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill. The most common symptoms of Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. Deaths are rare.
Dallas County Health and Human Services advises individuals with symptoms to see a healthcare provider if they visited an area where Zika virus is present or had sexual contact with a person who traveled to an area where Zika virus is present.
There is no specific medication available to treat Zika virus and there is not a vaccine. Treat the symptoms:
Get plenty of rest
Drink fluids to prevent dehydration
Take medicines, such as acetaminophen or paracetamol, to relieve fever and pain
Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen, should be avoided until dengue can be ruled out to reduce the risk of hemorrhage. If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.
If you have Zika virus, avoid mosquito bites for the first week of your illness.
During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites.
An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.
In late June, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve $1.1 billion in emergency funding to prepare for and respond to the Zika virus. The bill diverted $750 million in existing funding for Ebola, Department of Health and Human Services administration and health care exchanges in the territories to fight Zika.
Funding continues to be an issue in the fight against Zika in Texas, and infectious disease specialist Dr. Ed Dominguez, on the medical staff at Methodist Dallas, told The Dallas Morning News he supports the state's efforts.
Answers from Dr. Sofia Ansari and Dr. Ed Dominguez, who specialize in infectious diseases at Methodist Health System.
What is Zika virus?
Zika is a virus spread primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, which can breed in pools of water and typically bite during the day. The mosquitoes spreading the disease are the same ones that spread Chikungunya and dengue. There is no vaccine to prevent Zika or medicine to treat the infection. One patient in Dallas County had sexual contact with an infected individual who had recently visited Venezuela where the Zika virus was present.
What are the symptoms?
About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus get sick, and you’ll typically see symptoms about two to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. For those infected, the symptoms are mild — fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). If you’ve traveled to the affected area in the past two to 14 days, contact your health care provider, especially if you are or think you may be pregnant.
What is the treatment?
Our doctors, nurses and clinicians are on alert and prepared for any patient who might exhibit symptoms. There is no cure for Zika virus, so they recommend supportive care. Get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration, and take acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain. Do not take aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and if you’re taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your health care provider.
Methodist Health System’s Answers2 blog follows the latest trends in healthcare, nutrition and exercise. Click here to learn more about the Zika virus, as well as our other topical blog posts.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response has released a new comprehensive resource on Zika virus for clinicians and emergency response personnel. Zika: Resources at Your Fingertips includes an overview of the virus – its epidemiology, symptoms, where it is found and how it is transmitted – as well as considerations and resources for health care providers broken out by profession/facility. The guide will be updated as new information or guidance emerges. For the latest on Zika, visit www.cdc.gov/zika and www.aha.org/zika.
Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services Instructions for Zika Virus Testing
Methodist infectious disease specialist Dr. Ed Dominguez gave an interview to Al Dia newspaper about what the Spanish-speaking public needs to know: Read more
First case of Zika virus in Dallas County was sexually transmitted
Methodist infectious disease specialist Dr. Ed Dominguez explains the various issues concerning this newly-confirmed method of Zika transmission. Click here to watch CBS 11's story.
Lack of Zika virus treatment options
Methodist Dallas OBGYN Dr. Patricia LaRue discusses the lack of treatment options for the Zika virus with FOX 4, and what the options are for pregnant women who fear they may be infected. Watch the story here.
Methodist Richardson infectious disease specialist Dr. Sofia Ansari talks to WFAA's Sonia Azad about the effects of the Zika virus on pregnant women. Click here to see the story.
Now with two Zika cases in Dallas County, how prepared should we all be?
It's the question many North Texans are asking. Methodist Richardson infectious disease specialist Dr. Sofia Ansari urges caution and awareness to CBS 11. Watch the story here.
Dr. Ansari also did a comprehensive interview with KRLD radio about pregnancy, testing and a potential vaccine, click here to listen.
Methodist Richardson hosts Zika forum
Methodist Richardson welcomed dozens of people from all across the DFW Metroplex for an educational forum on Thursday, Feb. 19 inside the Women’s Center lobby. OBGYNs Denisse Holcomb, MD and Carol Norton, MD joined infectious disease specialists Sofia Ansari, MD and Serge Lartchenko, MD to address the latest news coming from the CDC and to answer questions from the audience.
Click here to view our Zika virus forum.
If you need help finding a physician, get the benefit of being treated by the only doctors in Dallas and the entire North Texas area that can participate in Methodist’s collaboration with the Mayo Clinic Care Network. Get help at answers2.org.
For travel warnings and health updates from Methodist, please subscribe to our newsletter.