The University of Texas is getting involved in the fight against the Zika virus. Researchers in Galveston are going to help Brazil develop a vaccine. A researcher in at U.T. Austin is also doing work on the mosquito that carries the virus.
Swarms of bugs have already started to emerge because there has been no hard freeze. But the mosquito population is in check so far, according to Sabrina Vidaurri with Austin Vector Control.
"The temperatures are cold enough at night to discourage mosquito from actually going through their life cycles to becoming adult mosquitos,” Vidaurri.
Typically the mosquito problem starts in May and the concern is about West Nile virus. Now the Zika virus has emerged as a new threat. The usual strategy in Austin - spraying larvicide in areas with stagnate water - and not using fog trucks - remains in play.
"I would say it’s better to use the larvicide because the larvicide kills the mosquito before it ever can become an adult and become an issue,” said Vidaurri.
Jennifer Castaneda is aware of the birth defects associated with the Zika virus and is not ignoring the risk.
"'Cause, It’s pretty scary, especially since I have friends who are pregnant, and they're staying indoors because they don’t want to risk anything,” said Castaneda.
Jennifer says the mosquito prevention plan for her two kids involves using a lot of repellant - natural and those also containing Deet.
"I’m going to lather them up,”, said Castaneda.
The cases of Zika Virus found so far in Texas are from people who were infected in another country and recently returned. A researcher at UT Austin believes the risk of that remains high but he also warns the mosquito that carries the virus is already in Texas. Professor Sahotra Sarkar first spotted the Zika virus several years ago while studying another mosquito borne illness.
"I absolutely think we are going to begin seeing what are called, autonomous, or local outbreaks in the summer, the same mosquito that carries this type of disease, also carry dengue, and during the last 10 years there have been several episodes of dengue expansion along the Texas- Mexico border, in Florida and elsewhere,” said Professor Sarkar.
The professor told FOX 7 that local governments are running out of time to develop a comprehensive strategy.
"I think control measures need to become a lot more focused and a lot more serious,” says Professor Sarkar.
Sarkar believes the Zika problem will not become the status quo in North America . He expects that the virus can be defeated much the same way malaria was once beaten back. The professor has completed a new report that identifies ports of entry for people infected with the virus who are coming from another country. He told FOX 7 the top two locations, based on his research, are Miami and Houston.