Rain leads to concern about Zika virus

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Zika virus continues to cause concern for the Austin Travis County Health and Human Services Department.

While only two confirmed cases have been reported in the Austin area, medical officials worry that with mosquito breeding season right around the corner it could get worse. Wednesday, the department will update the city’s Health and Human Services Committee on how best to curb the problem.

Dr. Phil Huang, the Medical Director for the Austin Travis County Health and Human Services Department worries that standing water from the recent rain could become a breeding ground for the type of mosquito that can carry the Zika virus. It differs from the one that carries the West Nile virus because it breeds close to homes and often lives inside a home, either behind curtains or under a table. This breed also typically bites during the day unlike others that bite at dawn or dusk.

Dr. Huang says while the two confirmed cases of Zika come from individuals who traveled abroad – there is still a concern it could spread.

“If our local mosquitoes bite someone who is infected then our local mosquitoes will carry that infection and then if they start biting people locally that’s when we get that local spread,” said Dr. Huang.

At the committee meeting Dr. Huang says he will encourage public outreach that asks pregnant women to wear long sleeves and bug repellent during the active mosquito months. However most who contract the Zika virus may not even know it since symptoms are often mild like fever, rash, or joint pain.

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