State, local leaders to meet; Letter sent to area officials about Zika prevention

May 5, 2017 GMT

Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt will meet today with county judges and local mayors at a Zika prevention roundtable in Brownsville.

The meeting comes one day after Abbott and Hellerstedt sent out letters to county and local leaders seeking their assistance in fighting the Zika virus.

Abbott and Hellerstedt’s letter outlines steps that can be taken by Texans to help prevent the spread of the virus, what local officials can do and the state’s commitment to help coordinate response efforts.

The Zika virus is spread to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. The illness is usually mild, with symptoms lasting up to one week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly and other severe brain injuries.


At the roundtable, which will be held at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Brownsville campus, officials will discuss prevention efforts as the state prepares to enter the height of mosquito season.

“With the ongoing risk posed by Zika, we are requesting your continued assistance in delaying locally transmitted Zika virus in Texas this year by promoting precautions to prevent mosquito bites and taking action to reduce mosquito breeding grounds in your communities,” reads the letter.

“We expect local mosquito transmission to resume and persist as the weather warms and mosquito activity increases. The Texas Department of State Health Services stands ready to provide technical expertise as you prepare your locality’s Zika response plans or prepare to conduct community engagement efforts,” the letter continues.

The letter asks local officials to do the following:

>>Coordinate community cleanup areas known for having items or areas that collect water and allow mosquitoes to breed around human habitation

>>Host or ask volunteers to host community events for stakeholders to answer Zika questions, conduct cleanup demonstrations and provide educational material

>>Coordinate neighborhood outreach about precautions individuals can take to protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites

>>Initiate or enhance monitoring and surveillance of mosquito activity, and accelerate mosquito abatement efforts, including use of larvicide.

The first local Zika virus case, confirmed Nov. 28, in CameronCounty was that of a 43-year-old Brownsville woman who tested positive for the virus but had not reported any recent travel to Mexico.

The confirmation prompted county and local health officials to test residents living around the neighborhood in which the woman lived to determine if there were more cases.

As of April 22, CameronCounty has had 39 individuals test positive for Zika. Only six of those cases were locally transmitted.


In December, the CDC issued a Zika virus guidance for the City of Brownsville designating the city as a “cautionary area” discouraging pregnant women from traveling to Brownsville and encouraging them to make every effort to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes.

Women and men who traveled and lived in Brownsville who were pregnant or had a pregnant partner were advised to use a condom to prevent Zika virus infection during sex.

Women who had limited risk of possible exposure were advised to wait at least eight weeks from symptoms onset or last possible exposure to attempt to get pregnant.

“We encourage all communities to take action now to address the threat of Zika virus in Texas. Together, we can reduce the impact of Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases. We must prepare and begin our efforts before weather conditions allow mosquitoes to proliferate,” the letter states.