With the weather heating up in the Lone Star State, experts agree it’s only a matter of time before a real Zika outbreak hits Texas.
Public health officials are specifically concerned about the Southernmost and Rio Grande Valley areas, where 1.3 million people live – many in poverty and without amenities Houstonians would consider basic necessities, like health care, garbage service or window screens.
This creates prime conditions for Zika-infected and transmitting mosquitoes, and without a public hospital for the region to provide necessary health care, especially prenatal care for women, Texas may see higher rates of birth defects in newborns.
Zika is known to cause microcephaly along with other brain and health problems if it is passed from an infected pregnant mother to her fetus in utero.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, only 25 percent of babies potentially affected by Zika received brain scans after birth, meaning some defects may be going initially unnoticed and unreported. Texas is second only to Florida for Zika transmission, with 322 cases reported since 2015 – 10 alone this year.
The CDC even has a special bulletin with instructions on avoiding contracting Zika in the Brownsville area, including taking precautions against mosquitoes with Deet-based spray and avoiding sexual contact with those who live or travel to the area for at least eight weeks.
The Texas Department of Health and Human Services issued the following statement urging proactive testing to prevent infection and further transmission:
Testing is recommended for all pregnant women at their first prenatal care visit and again in the second trimester. In addition, if a pregnant woman exhibits symptoms at any point in her pregnancy, she should be tested (or retested if tested already) for Zika as soon as possible.Advertisement
For full women’s Zika prevention guidance, visit http://texaszika.org/healthcareprof.htm.
The current comprehensive guidance on Zika testing can be found at http://texaszika.org/healthcareprof.htm.