New warning about the mosquito-borne Zika virus

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Some health officials are concerned a new mosquito-borne virus called Zika. (WPVI)

For many, the somewhat mild winter has offered temperatures that are perfect for exercising outside.

"That's probably the best thing about this weather is the mosquitos are gone," runner John Garcia said.

But as the weather warms and more mosquitoes buzz, health officials have a warning. The first confirmed case of the Zika virus has been found in Harris County, Texas, after a woman traveled to El Salvador.

"Fortunately we don't have evidence of Zika in our local mosquito population," said Dr. Umair A. Shah, executive director for Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services. "But when somebody goes to another country, we want them to take the appropriate precautions."

Cases have been reported in Latin America, South America and Africa, and symptoms include fever, rash and joint pain that usually last several weeks. It is a particular concern for pregnant women who may travel to certain regions, as there is a possible link between the virus and birth defects.

Dr. Scott Weaver, with UTMB's Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, says it is a major concern.

"There have been only a few cases definitively linked to Zika virus infection, but we think it's likely many of these cases that may total more than 3,000 in Brazil alone could be due to Zika virus infection," he said. "That's a major concern."

Members of the research team at UTMB's Galveston National Laboratory have been tracking the spread of the Aedes mosquito-borne Zika outbreak, especially once it reached Brazil last year.

There is no vaccine or specific treatment though UTMB is conducting experiments in that area. The best advice health officials have is to take precautions to prevent any mosquito bites.

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