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First infant death in Texas linked to Zika

Harris Co. Public Health executive director Dr. Umair Shah: The mother did not know the Zika virus was in play. (CNN Newsource)

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KEYE) -- The Texas Department of State Health Services has confirmed the first Zika death in Texas is a Harris Co. newborn.

The child had microcephaly and passed away shortly after birth. Recent test results show the baby's condition is linked to the virus.

Health officials said the mother visited Latin America during her pregnancy and got infected with the virus. The baby acquired the infection in the womb.

"The mother did not know that the Zika virus was in play, in this case," Dr. Umair Shah, executive director of Harris County Public Health, said. "This is a situation where the child was born with Microcephaly and the doctors did the right thing, which was to begin the process of testing. They went ahead and tested the mother. The mother's tests initially came back inconclusive.

" And what that means is that we have -- not to get too science-y here -- when you have both Zika and Dengue that comes back positive, it's called unspecified flavivirus, and that's what happened with a Microcephaly case back in July of this past year -- so just a few weeks ago," he continued. "Unspecified flavivirus meaning that you're uncertain if the mother is infected with Zika, Dengue or both or is it because of some vaccination or some other activity in her remote history. So, you have to then wait for the results for the child to come back. And those came back on Friday and they were positive for Zika."

DSHS says they are classified as travel-related cases, there is no additional associated risk in Texas.

Last month, the state reported the first case of microcephaly linked to the virus -- also in Harris County.

DSHS officials argued all Texas cases are related to travel abroad to areas with active Zika transmission. There have been no reported cases of the disease transmitted by mosquitoes in Texas, but Texas is on alert for the possibility local transmission.

"Certainly, everything that they're doing in Florida would be replicated here, if we had an outbreak," Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said. "More importantly, maybe there are other things. Each case is going to be a little bit different. But, the bottom line for us is, if, and when, we have our first local transmission of Zika, at that point, the Harris County Office of Emergency Management will go full-board, set up the whole incident command structure, call in the state of Texas, get resources -- I would assume CDC and everybody else would be on scene in a matter of hours and we would start that whole process.

"First off, trying to eliminate the mosquito population," Emmett continued. "But, one of the questions that comes up all the time, well, if we know these mosquitoes are here, why don't identify where they are and go eradicate them. They're over too broad of an area. And so, we have to wait. And hopefully, we don't have a local transmission. But, if we do, all the resources of all levels of government will turn to it and be treated like any other emergency."

DSHS urges travelers to take precautions, especially pregnant women.

For information on the virus visit: Zika in Texas.

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