HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Only a hand full of states here in the U.S. have not reported cases of the Zika virus according to the centers for disease control. A news conference was held here in Houston today calling the Zika outbreak an epidemic that needs to be stopped.
So what’s the plan?
The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center is now screening donated blood for the Zika virus. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Mayor Sylvester Turner are coming together to stop the Zika virus before it spreads any further.
“The Zika virus is here in the United States,” says the Congresswoman.
In fact, a map from the Centers For Disease Control puts it in perspective. Nearly every state in America has been hit by the Zika virus with 114 cases in in New York, 109 in Florida, 44 in California and 35 in Texas.
“There are confirmed cases of Zika virus that include 279 pregnant women. This number is double the number of cases a week ago,” adds Congresswoman Jackson Lee. Zika is so dangerous for pregnant women because it destroys a baby's ability to grow a brain, causing the skull to collapse.
“Remember also the brains of infants, children in their first year of life are also growing and developing. What's going to be the effect of Zika virus on those children? We just may be at the very beginning of a truly catastrophic situation,” explains Baylor College of Medicine Dr. Peter Jay Hotez.
According to the CDC 10 people in the U.S. contracted Zika sexually, the others were infected while traveling. To keep the disease from spreading to mosquitoes locally, public health professionals say we need to attack the insect where it breeds.
”Empty the standing water around houses. Those little mosquitoes can breed in as little as a quarter of an inch of water,” adds Dr. Julie Graves with the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Cities on the Gulf Coast are said to be at greater risk of mosquitos becoming infected. “That means urban areas such as Houston, Galveston, Corpus Christi, New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile, Tampa,” says Dr. Hotez.
Many erroneously believe this is a poor person's problem.
”Because of the poverty component, the discarded tires, the dumping, the absent window screens” explains Hotez.
“Just like AIDS/HIV was received at one time as only effecting one group. If we have that same or similar response then we're going to wake up and be very disappointed,” says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.
Doctors say insect repellents that contain Deet offer the best protection from mosquito bites.
In addition to removing anything that holds water outside you're urged to be careful with fountains, aquariums and plants inside your house because the Zika carrying mosquito will breed inside homes. This group is calling on congress to approve the president's $1.9 billion proposal to help with clean up efforts to fight Zika.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee plans to announce, this week, the members of a Zika virus task force.
Public health professionals say this type of mosquito is so difficult to fight because pesticides don’t necessarily work on them because the mosquito doesn't fly at night. It’s what’s called a “daytime biter” and it isn’t ideal to spray during the day.