Via The Guardian: 'It’s going to hit the poorest people': Zika outbreak feared on the Texas border. Excerpt:
When Patricia Pena hosted a Zika awareness class near the Texas border with Mexico on Tuesday, only four people showed up.
“Even though there’s been a lot of announcements on TV about it and how to protect yourself, families are still very naive when it comes to the information on Zika,” said Pena, who works with La Frontera Ministries, a community nonprofit.
While Zika cases in south Florida drew most of the headlines last year, the mosquito-borne virus also struck in the Rio Grande Valley. As mosquito season ramps up again, activists and health workers fear that the region is at risk of an outbreak.
More than 1.3 million people live in the Valley, many in deprived neighbourhoods known as colonias, where conditions are ripe for mosquitoes to breed: sprawling settlements limit the effectiveness of spraying, standing water is common, and many houses lack window screens or air-conditioning.
“You have a lot of these families who don’t even have money to get rid of their garbage,” Pena said, “and their houses are infested with all kinds of creatures, including mosquitoes.”
She added that many people don’t have equipment to cut their grass, which could hide breeding pools, and that the streets lack proper drainage.
“It’s going to hit the poorest people,” said Joseph McCormick, regional dean of the University of Texas School of Public Health. “People that live in areas where mosquitoes are going to breed, areas where they have poor housing, just like it is in South America.”
Michael Seifert, a community organiser in Brownsville, suggested that until people see local cases of babies with microcephaly – a birth defect that can be caused by Zika – the virus will be viewed as sort of “urban legend”, distant and unlikely.
It is real enough, if not widespread: according to state health department statistics, 10 Zika cases have been documented in Texas this year and 320 in 2016 and 2015. About 250 women and children have shown evidence of infection reported to the federal Zika Pregnancy Registry.