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Four More Possible Zika Virus Cases Suspected In North Texas

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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – As many as four more suspected cases of Zika virus fever may be tied to North Texas.

According to Dallas County Health and Human Services, the four possible cases are travelers who recently visited impacted areas.

The CDC is right now testing the samples.

“You’re putting a lot of pressure on local health departments to respond an international problem that should be eradicated at the doorstep in Central America,” says Zachary Thompson, Director, , “before it ever comes to the soil of Dallas County or the United States.”

The mosquito-born Zika virus continues to create panic in Central and South America because of a suspected tie to babies born with birth defects when mothers are bitten while pregnant. Mexico is also among the countries that the CDC is now telling pregnant and hoping-to-be-pregnant women to avoid. And, experts say diseases rarely respect borders.

“We were expecting to find Zika virus disease in returning travelers,” says Parkland Infectious Diseases physician, Pranavi Sreeramoju, M.D., “so the case via sexual transmission was a surprise to us. Although local health officials have expected the virus’ arrival, news earlier this week that the virus can also be spread through sexual contact has been called a game changer.

Dr. Sreeramoju heads up a task force of sorts that Parkland has formed to help stop the virus’ spread locally… or at least monitor those patients who may have been exposed. Still, she admits that with ‘emerging pathogens’ the landscape changes quickly.

“The nice thing about our protocol is that it’s very flexible,” says Dr. Sreeramoju, “it’s adaptable to changing situations.” The first recommendation is to create a formal process for monitoring pregnant patients whose travel histories indicate recent visits to Zika infected countries. Since the Ebola outbreak two years ago, Parkland patients are already asked about travel histories. Now, with the Zika virus threat, local health officials are tasked with creating a process that reflects the answers.

“What this does is it adds a few more questions to the questions that we ask, and if they do meet criteria for additional monitoring that is the more scientific challenge, and we are staying tuned to new guidelines… or evolving guidelines, I would say.”

Dallas County Health officials say the patients whose Zika virus fever diagnoses were disclosed earlier this week have made full recoveries. And they stress that only those persons who have recently traveled to infected countries, or had sexual contact with someone who has, should be concerned. In which case, those travelers are urged to contact their physicians because only one in five affected with Zika virus fever will experience symptoms. Still, they can still spread the virus.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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