Texas county still on "high alert" over Zika virus

Zika in Texas
Zika in Texas 02:19

CAMERON COUNTY, Texas -- The Centers for Disease Control reports 64 babies have been born in the continental U.S. with Zika-related birth defects so far this year. CBS News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook has been tracking the spread of the Zika virus and recently spent time in Texas.

Last year, local transmission of Zika in the border town of Cameron County, Texas prompted the CDC to recommend routine Zika testing for pregnant women here. So far this year, 15 have tested positive, including Rocio Morado, 24. Last month, she delivered baby Hugo, born with microcephaly

Morado says she knows now that Zika is spread by mosquitoes and through sexual intercourse, but she didn't know that before she got pregnant. That lack of awareness is all too common, according to Esmeralda Guajardo, who heads up Zika control efforts in this border county.

Rocio Morado, 24, gave birth to in April to Hugo, who was born with microcephaly. CBS News

Guajardo says she doesn't think the public understands well enough what Zika is, how it is spread and how to protect themselves.

So Cameron County is increasing its efforts at mosquito control and public education, and sharing what it's learned with others across Texas.

"We had a boot camp in April," Guajardo says. "And we allowed all the health departments to come in to learn from our mistakes."

Other health departments are gearing up, she says, because "they're scared of it hitting their area." 

Zika outbreak 02:40

Since January 2016, the CDC has reported in the states and Washington D.C. there were 5,223 symptomatic Zika cases. Only about 20 percent of infections cause symptoms, and 1,845 of those infections were in women who are pregnant

So far, only South Florida and Brownsville, Texas, have reported Zika infection in local mosquitoes. But Texas Health Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt is concerned travelers with Zika in their bloodstream could spread the virus to uninfected mosquitoes in other states.

"They could go to anywhere that have the potential to harbor the Aedes aegypti mosquito," Hellerstedt said. 

In Texas, Hellerstedt says they're "absolutely on high alert." 

The question now: Will the virus start to spread in vulnerable areas like the Gulf Coast, and if so, how quickly will we detect it?

  • Jon Lapook
    Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for CBS News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook