JUAREZ, Mexico — As health officials in Texas work to control West Nile virus, those along the border must keep an eye on another illness spread by mosquitoes — dengue fever.
Preliminary testing in the border city Juarez indicates the presence of mosquitoes carrying dengue fever.
The disease is prevalent in parts of Mexico with a tropical climate, but until now had not been seen this far north.
The mosquitoes caught in traps set out weekly in both El Paso and Juarez help officials identify which breeds of mosquitoes are in the area and if they’re carrying any diseases.
"Remember some mosquitoes can travel up to a mile and some mosquitoes can travel up to five miles so they’ll be able to cross that border pretty quick," said Danny Soto, code enforcement supervisor with the city of El Paso Environmental Services Department.
Soto’s officers fan out to check for standing water, a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
"If the water stays stagnant for more than 3 days, it will start getting breeding," said Soto.
Along this stretch of border, El Paso and Juarez coordinate to stop mosquitoes and the diseases they spread. They schedule spraying together and share information about the breeds they’re trapping, and any cases of mosquito-borne illnesses reported.
The first case of dengue fever was reported in Ciudad Juarez a couple of weeks ago. Health authorities in Juarez told El Paso officials the person became ill with Dengue fever after a trip to Veracruz.
"Official channels going between nations are slower so it works much better for us to have these relatively quick informal relationships so we can find out right now what’s going on so we can act," said Michael Hill, El Paso Public Health Director.
Live mosquitoes trapped on both sides of the border are sent to Austin for testing. The information is reported to the Centers for Disease Control, which tracks the spread of dengue fever and other mosquito-borne illnesses.
Several Mexican states bordering Texas are coping with an outbreak of dengue fever. According to health officials, Tamaulipas has 235 reported cases. Many are on the coast but about half are in the border cities of Reynosa and Matamoros across from the Rio Grande Valley.
According to the CDC there have been 103 cases in the United State this year including three in Texas. One is in Travis County.
Most are travelers who picked up the disease in other countries—including tropical areas of Mexico.
But a mild winter, early spring and warmer climate are adding to concerns the mosquito that carries dengue Fever is traveling further north along the border.