First case of Zika confirmed in Austin, disease continues to spread in U.S.

Mikaela Cannizzo

The Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department confirmed Austin’s first case of Zika virus Thursday evening.

According to the department’s website, a man under the age of 50 contracted the virus while abroad in Columbia. Currently, there are 10 confirmed Zika cases in Texas including seven in Harris County, one in Bexar County and two in Dallas County.

The disease is most commonly transmitted via mosquito bites and is an active threat in the Caribbean, Mexico and South and Central America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Patients diagnosed with Zika in the continental U.S. have mostly been identified as travelers returning from a country known for active Zika transmission, according to the center’s website.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, nine of the patients diagnosed with Zika in Texas contracted the virus in another country. The other case resulted from sexual contact between a Dallas County resident and someone who contracted the disease while abroad.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent the Zika virus, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends preventing contraction of the disease by avoiding mosquito bites.

While symptoms are usually mild or nonexistent for most people diagnosed with the disease, Zika has led to Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disorder that causes the body’s immune system to attack the nervous system, in rare cases.

CDC issued a level two travel alert for regions where the virus is spreading, urging travelers to proceed with caution. The organization especially recommends pregnant women avoid traveling to infected countries because exposure to the virus could result in a miscarriage or microcephaly, a condition in which a baby is born with an abnormally small head and an underdeveloped brain.