Posted Thursday, December 15, 2016

In an effort to keep travel industry partners informed on the state of Texas Zika virus response and to assist with questions from your partners and visitors, we will proactively update this site with the latest Texas Zika news as needed.

On December 14, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued Zika-related travel and testing guidance for Brownsville, Cameron County, Texas, following reports from Texas public health officials of five cases spread locally by mosquitoes. This information suggests that there may be a risk of continued spread of Zika virus and therefore pregnant women and their partners are at some risk for Zika virus infection. CDC is designating the city of Brownsville as a Zika cautionary area (yellow area). Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS), Cameron County Health Department, Brownsville Health Department and CDC are working together to rapidly learn more about the extent of Zika virus transmission in Brownsville.
Currently there are only five cases known to have been transmitted locally in the Brownsville area, there is not yet any evidence of widespread, sustained local spread of Zika, but with the temperatures in the region conducive to mosquito-borne transmission, the risk of continued local transmission cannot be ruled out.   
“We are working closely with Texas to gather and analyze new information every day. With the new information that there has been local spread of Zika for at least several weeks, we conclude that pregnant women should avoid the Brownsville area – and make every effort to prevent mosquito bites if they live or work there,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Together with Texas officials we are working to protect pregnant women from the potentially devastating effects of this virus.”  
The CDC’s recommendations for people living in or traveling to the Brownsville area, specifically women who are pregnant, women planning to become pregnant, and their partners, can be found on the CDC website at, https://emergency.cdc.gov/han/han00399.asp .
We encourage all travel industry partners to visit the Texas Department of State Health Services Zika website, www.TexasZika.org, where information regarding Texas cases is updated each weekday by 11 a.m., including a breakdown of cases by county.
Where is Brownsville?
  • Brownsville is located on the southern tip of Texas, along the Mexico/Texas border.
  • The area of Texas is 268,597 square miles, Brownsville only covers an area of 147.5 square miles.
  • In relation to the state’s larger metropolitan areas, Brownsville is located:
    • 277 miles from San Antonio
    • 350 miles from Austin
    • 355 miles from Houston
    • 545 miles from the Dallas/Fort Worth area
Combating Zika in Texas
On December 12, Governor Abbott announced that the CDC awarded the State of Texas a $5 million grant for Public Health Preparedness and Response (PHPR) in order to combat the Zika virus. The supplemental Zika funding awarded by Congress provides increase public health preparedness and response funding to protect Americans from Zika virus infection.
"Now that Texas has confirmed cases of local transmission of the Zika virus, this money will be crucial in our efforts to contain and combat further transmission of the virus,” said Governor Abbott. "Texas has been at the forefront of developing and implementing the strongest possible Zika response plan and we will continue to work with our local and federal partners to ensure our communities have the tools they need to combat the Zika virus."
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has dedicated $18 million to combatting the Zika virus and implementing the state's Preparedness and Response plan.
Helpful Links:
All the information above can be referenced from:
Texas Department of State Health Services - www.texaszika.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - http://www.cdc.gov/zika/
US Travel Association Zika Toolkit - https://www.ustravel.org/toolkit/emergency-preparedness-and-response-zika-virus
Office of the Governor Statement - http://gov.texas.gov/news/press-release/22583 

Texas Tourism is providing information in an effort to update current and prospective travelers of the situation, as well by providing travel safety information on www.TravelTexas.com. Please find some frequently asked questions below for reference.

What is Zika?
The Zika virus is spread through the bite of certain types of mosquitoes. While it can cause fever, a rash, joint pain and or pink eyes, about 80 percent of people with Zika do not become ill or have symptoms. Zika can also be spread through blood transfusions and sexual contact.
How Do People Get Infected With Zika?
Mosquito bites are the primary way that Zika virus is transmitted. The virus can also be spread from mother to child while pregnant, through blood transfusion, or through sexual contact. Not all mosquito types transmit the Zika virus. It is primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito (A. aegypti and possibly A. albopictus). In Texas, these mosquitoes are mainly found in South Texas and along the Texas coast, but are also present in other parts of Texas, especially urban environments.
What Are The Symptoms Of Zika?
Many people infected with Zika virus do not experience any symptoms or will only experience mild symptoms. The most common symptoms of Zika are
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Joint pain
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
Other symptoms include:
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
Zika virus infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly and severe fetal brain defects and has been associated with other adverse pregnancy outcomes. Most people infected with Zika virus will not have symptoms; infants with microcephaly and other birth defects have been born to women with Zika virus infection who did not report symptoms.

How Can Visitors Prevent Getting Zika?
Texas Department of State Health Services has created a Zika Toolkit that can be found at www.TexasZika.org.

Take these simple steps to protect yourself from the Zika virus. 
  • Use EPA-approved insect repellent.
  • Wear pants and long-sleeve shirts.
  • Use screens and close windows and doors at hotel rooms or places you’re staying.
  • Take precautions against sexual transmission.
What Should Travelers Do When Returning To Texas From A Zika Affected Destination?
  • All travelers returning to Texas from areas affected by Zika should avoid mosquito bites for 21 days following their return or following the onset of illness.
  • Call your doctor if you have concerns.
  • Use EPA-approved insect repellent for 21 days after you return to the United States.When used as directed, these insect repellents -- including those that contain DEET -- are proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
  • Take precautions against sexual transmission for at least eight weeks.