First case of Zika virus confirmed in El Paso

City of El Paso announce the first case of Zika in El Paso Monday, August 15, 2016. (Credit: KFOX14/CBS4)

The El Paso Department of Health confirmed Monday a man living in the city contracted the Zika virus while traveling to Florida.

The Health Department, city leaders and representatives with Vector Control held a news conference about the first local case of the virus.

Health officials said this is the first Texas case to be linked to travel within the continental United States.

Mayor Oscar Leeser cautioned the community not to panic because the man did not get Zika from a mosquito in El Paso.

It is being classified as a “travel associated” case and is currently being investigated.

It was determined that the man contracted the virus while traveling to Miami during the last week of July. He was healthy, before traveling to Miami. When he returned to El Paso on Aug. 1 he began developing symptoms of a fever, said Robert Resendes, public health director for El Paso.

The patient first saw a private doctor before being admitted to University Medical Center. His results came back from the state over the weekend, Resendes said.

Health officials say the man underwent a period of isolation and is no longer contagious. He is reportedly doing better.

Resendes said the virus lasts in the bloodstream for about a week and then it's gone.

There have been no reported cases of the Zika virus being transmitted by mosquitoes in Texas, but officials said the state is on alert for the possibility of local transmission.

KFOX14 asked if other El Pasoans had been checked or tested as it relates to this case since Zika can also be transmitted sexually, and was told there had not been any others test done.

There has not yet been a case of mosquitoes in El Paso spreading Zika but health officials say this is a good reminder on taking Zika and West Nile precautions.

"Eighty percent of us would show no symptoms whatsoever if we were affected by Zika. We won't even know that we have it.Twenty percent of us that show symptoms will come out like a rash from the flu. Sometimes it will also come out like conjunctivitis so we command or medical community and medical staff checked up on this order the right test and we have a good outcome," Resendes said.

Resendes said the city is preparing "Zika kits" for 5,000 residents who don't have medical coverage.

Texas is no longer requiring pregnant women on Medicaid to get a prescription before receiving free mosquito repellent amid worries over Zika.

State health officials announced Monday they're dropping the need for expecting mothers and women between the ages of 10 and 45 to first call or visit a doctor before receiving up to two cans of repellent a month through October.

More than 90 people in Texas are reported to have been infected with Zika. The virus has been linked to fetal deaths and severe birth defects in the children of women infected during pregnancy.

Health and Human Services Commissioner Charles Smith says Texas is the first state to issue a standing order for mosquito repellent prescriptions. Eligible women on Medicaid can pick up the repellent at their pharmacist.

To avoid infecting local mosquitoes, people who travel to areas with active Zika transmission should apply insect repellent every time they go outside for at least three weeks after they return to Texas – and longer if they develop an illness that could be Zika. State health officials urge everyone to visit and follow precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites:

• Apply EPA-approved insect repellent.

• Wear pants and long-sleeve shirts that cover exposed skin. In warmer weather, wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that covers exposed skin.

• Use screens or close windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of your home.

• Remove standing water in and around the home. This includes water in cans, toys, tires, plant saucers, and any container that can hold water.

• Cover trash cans or containers where water can collect.

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