State, local leaders give tips on ways to stop Zika virus

HOUSTON – After recent flooding, state and local leaders are putting plans in motion to fight the Zika virus.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Mayor Sylvester Turner held a news conference at 10:45 a.m. Monday to discuss ways to help stop the virus from spreading.

"The Zika virus has arrived to the United States in a very vigorous, powerful, and potent way, " Jackson Lee said.

Local leaders and public health officials are not at all underplaying the issue -- many are worried about the spreading of the virus in Houston.

"What this virus does is it stops cold the development of the brain," Dr. Peter Hortez with the Baylor College of Medicine said." This is every parent's worst nightmare."

Officials reminded the public to protect themselves in all the usual ways: using bug spray with DEET, clearing standing water from homes, and being cautious when traveling to Zika-prone areas.

There have already been 13 local cases of Zika, which were all travel-related. Researchers still have lots to learn about the virus' long-term effects on the human body.

"We just may be at the very beginning of a truly catastrophic situation that's going to influence a whole new generation of pediatrics," Hortez said.

The elimination of mosquito breeding ground like piles of debris and abandoned tires are among the biggest challenges Houston must face.

"It doesn't come without a price. It costs. And one of the reasons why the city moved expeditiously is because of the threat of the Zika virus," Turner said.

Health experts will also be there to offer tips during the conference, which was held at St. Joseph Medical Center.

"Effective emergency preparedness and response requires leadership that can accomplish perceptive coordination and communication among diverse agencies and sectors. That leadership is required now to respond to the threat posed to our community by the Zika virus," Jackson Lee said.

Turner and most local leaders expressed concerns that the House's $622 million Zika-funding bill isn't enough. The Senate has passed a $1.1 billion bill in emergency funding, but the chambers have to agree before they can present a bill to President Barack Obama. The president has already asked for $1.9 billion in funding.