City of Houston officials form anti-Zika virus action plan


HOUSTON – The city of Houston is developing a plan of action to prevent a Zika virus outbreak in the area.

Seven people in the Houston area have been diagnosed with Zika, but officials say they contracted the illness while traveling to a country affected by the virus.

The Aedes mosquito transmits the Zika virus.

During a press conference Thursday, Mayor Sylvester Turner told reporters that the city is partnering with county agencies to make sure they are ready to test patients for the Zika virus in Houston and to educate the public about protecting themselves from getting sick.

According to both the mayor and the Houston Health Department, the Health Department will be certified to test patients in March.

"The city of Houston's Health Department, along with the county, along with Harris County Flood Control, along with the medical providers, are in direct communication right now, working in collaboration," said Turner.

"I don't know that you could ever be too ready for a crisis situation that's about to come but we are in low mosquito season right now and we are making preparations in terms of public education and public health," said Kathy Barton, with the Houston Health Department.

The Aedes mosquito likes to breed around houses because people are its food source, she said.

“So you want to make sure your yard is tidy. Pick up all the cans, all the debris, any litter, keep your lawn mowed short," Barton said.

In the tourist industry, American Airlines and United are offering refunds to people who booked a trip to a country affected by the Zika virus.

Carnival Cruise Lines is allowing pregnant women to cancel or reschedule their trips.