Texas health officials are on high alert after a woman in Harris County near Houston was diagnosed with a potentially-devastating new mosquito-borne illness known as Zika virus.
The woman is one of 31 Americans diagnosed with the Zika virus, which has spread from regions of Africa and Asia to Brazil over the past year. In the past few months, illnesses were discovered in parts of Mexico and Puerto Rico, and is quickly spreading across the Americas.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the woman contracted the virus after traveling to El Salvador, another area affected by the virus, back in November. It took researchers a month of intensive testing to confirm that she had indeed contracted the Zika virus.
Just last month, CBS News reported that health officials were concerned that the virus will hit the U.S. through Texas by spring. The World Health Organization now reports that Zika is already “spreading explosively” across the Americas.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are warning travelers who are visiting areas where the Zika virus has been discovered to take precautions to protect themselves against mosquito bites.
The virus is similar to dengue fever, and can cause cases of fever, body pain and headaches. Health officials are especially concerned about the virus’ effects on newborns. According to WebMD, nearly 3000 babies have been born with microcephaly, an illness which can cause severe brain damage since the outbreak began last May.
A majority of those bitten by Zika-carrying mosquitos may not exhibit any symptoms of the virus. Experts say the best way of preventing infection to take the normal precautions against receiving mosquito bites, including keeping your skin covered while outdoors.