Contagious — It’s like the infamous bird flu scare from almost a decade ago, but, like, real. Experts (and regular folks) across the country are extremely worried about the spread of the Zika virus, apparently with good reason. The World Health Organization is warning that the virus is “explosive,” particularly in the lower Americas. Indeed, Reynosa had its first reported case this past weekend, and Houston just had its second reported case. Officials are bracing themselves, for the disease, seems to primarily affect pregnant women and their babies, though the response is not nearly as alarmist as the Ebola fears in Dallas last year. “Doctors at Texas Children’s and Baylor convened a task force to develop a strategy that will include ultrasound tests every three to four weeks of pregnancy to screen for microcephaly. Women who have symptoms such as fever, a bumpy rash, joint pain and red, itchy eyes will be tested for Zika, and if they test positive, doctors will test to determine whether the baby is affected,” according to the Houston Chronicle. “Local officials say there is no way to tell how hard a Zika infection would hit the U.S., where window screens and air conditioning are more common than in the countries where it is now prevalent.” Houston, apparently, is the big worrisome location. The Guardian talked to one health expert in H-town who said the area has the “perfect storm” of conditions that would allow the virus to flourish. “I could show you dozens of neighborhoods like this in south-east Texas, along the Gulf Coast,” Dr. Peter Hotez told the reporter about Houston’s Fifth Ward. “What we have is dilapidated housing, inadequate or absent window screens, standing water, poor drainage, which are going to allow the mosquitoes to breed, and then the classic piece to this is the discarded tyres along the side of the road. Aedes mosquitoes love discarded tyres [sic] filled with water.”
Welcome Home? — The affluenza saga continues with the return of Ethan Couch to Texas Thursday after an extended stay in Mexico, including 28 days in custody. A judge could decide Friday whether Couch’s case should be moved to adult jail after two years of being treated as a juvenile (he’s now 18). “Juvenile Judge Timothy Menikos will decide … where Couch goes next,” writes the Dallas Morning News. “Menikos can keep him at the detention facility, transfer him to an adult jail or release him on bond, pending a Feb. 19 hearing about whether to transfer Couch’s case. to the adult court system.” As the Austin American-Statesman details, “If Ethan Couch’s case is moved to adult court in Texas, the judge could order Couch to spend up to 120 days in jail for violating his probation and then finish the remainder of his 10-year probation sentence, according to Tarrant County District Attorney spokeswoman Samantha Jordan. If he were to violate his probation again, he could get up to 10 years in prison for each of the four people killed in the drunken-driving wreck.” Considering all the attention (and trouble) Couch and his mother have caused since they fled the country, it seem unlikely that he’ll be allowed to continue acting, and serving out his probation, as a child. If that does happen however, “he could be held in a juvenile detention center for violating his probation until he turns 19 in April, at which point he would become eligible for parole.”
Gassy — First the good news: no one died. The bad news? Nearly 200 people, mostly children, were hospitalized after a carbon monoxide leak at a Beaumont middle school. “Beaumont Fire-Rescue officials say paramedics were called around 10 a.m. after a student lost consciousness. Numerous students and faculty reported symptoms including nausea and headaches. Officials [said] they worked as fast as they could to evacuate more than 800 students and faculty,” writes Fox News. “Beaumont school district officials say the initial investigation shows there was a leak in a gas boiler. Officials said they’re unsure where the leak started and that state inspectors are expected to check out the boiler to see when it will be safe for everyone to re-enter the school.”
The Abbott Touch — With Rick Perry finally heading (back) to the campaign trail this week as he stumped for Ted Cruz, it was only a matter of time before people started asking how the current governor would wield his influence. Looks like now we have a partial answer. “Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday he plans to “weigh in” on the 2016 presidential race ahead of the Texas primary, raising the possibility of an endorsement before March 1,” according to the Texas Tribune. In a radio interview, Abbott said “I haven’t chosen a candidate yet because I want to continue to bring these candidates to the state of Texas to explain to them what our challenges are, about the necessity of securing the border, but I will weigh in later on in the presidential race.” Although he’s played it close to the chest, it would be a surprise, not to mention awesome Texas intrigue, if Abbott didn’t tap Ted Cruz.