NY Travel Clinic

Houston Better Prepared for Zika This Year

It appears that we have not heard the last of the Zika virus. Houston, America’s 4th largest city with a population of 4.5 million and with its warm humid climate may be the ideal place for this mosquito-borne virus to thrive.

Officials are concerned that this time the virus may just stay here long-term and that is why they are already implementing preventive measures to avoid this from occurring. Just last year, the city increased its mosquito control budget and officials have also been testing high-tech traps. There are also plans to release genetically modified mosquitoes that produce short lived off-springs to reduce the mosquito population.

There is also a plan to follow Miami’s program of aerial spraying and conducting house to house inspections to get rid of all standing water and puddles as they are breeding areas for mosquitoes. Thus, despite the risk that Houston faces with respect to Zika, it seems that the city is better prepared than last year.

Data released by the Pan American Health Organization indicates that the Zika virus infections have significantly dropped in the Americas except in Ecuador, Peru and Argentina. Zika infections have dropped off by more than 95% in Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico. In addition, cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome which is linked to the virus have also declined.

The good news is that with fewer Zika infections, there will be fewer American travelers returning back with the live virus in their blood, thus decreasing the probability of an outbreak in the US.

While city officials believe that the Zika epidemic is dying out, complete danger from this virus is not over. The reason is that good reliable information on the Zika virus from Central America is not available and with the heavy rain season in swing, this is the prime time for mosquito breeding. Still most experts believe that this year is far better than last year. There was a significant outbreak as well as a surge of infants born with deformed heads in many parts of the Americas.

Over the past few months, many pharmaceutical companies have been testing at least 2 dozen vaccines. Plus, the White House is in the midst of a battle with the Republicans for more research on the virus.

As of today, there have been 5,100 Zika virus cases reported in the US of which 4,800 were acquired while travelling. Florida reported 218 cases of locally acquired Zika infections, while the entire state of Texas reported 6, all in Brownsville.

However, to be on the safe side, officials have warned the public about mosquito prevention and recommend that all pregnant women try and avoid mosquito bites.