Pregnant Woman in Texas Has Zika—In First US-Contracted Case?

Oh no! Does this mean the virus has made its way to the United States?

Patients Test Positive for Zika Virus Jarun Ontakrai/Shutterstock
A pregnant woman has tested positive for the Zika virus at Legacy Community Health in Houston, Texas. It is unclear how she contracted the disease, leading doctors to wonder whether this is the first case of the virus contracted from within the United States. 

The woman with the confirmed case of the virus lived in El Salvador, where Zika is widespread at the moment. She moved to the United States earlier this year but authorities are still unsure of whether she contracted the virus via a mosquito bite or through sexual transmission. Either way, one thing is clear: This is not a good situation. While Zika's symptoms are relatively mild for most people, pregnant women can suffer devastating consequences if infected. The CDC has found a strong link between Zika and microcephaly, which causes the infants of infected pregnant women to be born with abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development.

We know what you're thinking: Does this mean you should be concerned about contracting the virus right here in America? According to Natalie Vanek, M.D. an infectious disease specialist at Legacy Community Health, this is not the time to panic.

"We are closely monitoring the patient through her pregnancy and hope for the best for mom and baby," Dr. Vanek said. "Today we are re-issuing our advisory to pregnant women not to travel down to the Central and South American countries where the virus is rampant, and want to make the broader Houston community aware the virus can be transmitted sexually. We are focused on prevention, not panic."

The CDC has recommended that pregnant women avoid travel to a long list of areas where Zika is taking its toll—but they're also warning women that transmission via sexual contact may be a bigger threat than most people realize. Here's the general recommendation: If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, avoid the areas detailed on the CDC's list, and don't have unprotected sex with a partner who has been to one of those areas in the past six months.