The Texas Department of State Health Services today issued a health alert encouraging health care providers in Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, Webb, Willacy and Zapata counties to consider Zika virus infection in their patients and order testing as medically indicated.
DSHS recommends testing pregnant women who live in this area and have at least two of the four most common Zika symptoms – fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (eye redness) – regardless of their travel history or other risk factors. In line with current testing criteria, DSHS continues to recommend testing anyone with at least three of those symptoms statewide and all pregnant women who have traveled to an area with active Zika transmission, regardless of symptoms.
There have been no reported cases of Zika transmitted in Texas, but the Rio Grande Valley is considered to be at higher risk for Zika transmission because of previous outbreaks of dengue, a similar virus spread by the same type of mosquito.
“We don’t have any evidence that the virus is being transmitted by mosquitoes in Texas, but as Zika continues to spread in the Western Hemisphere, now is the time to increase our surveillance,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, Commissioner of DSHS. “Doctors should be looking for Zika in their patients, and everyone should be taking personal precautions to prevent Zika infection.”
People can help prevent the spread of Zika by mosquito bite by:
- Using EPA-approved insect repellent every time they go outside.
- Wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts that cover exposed skin.
- Using air conditioning or window and door screens that are in good repair to keep mosquitoes out of the home.
- Removing standing water in and around homes, including water in trash cans, toys, tires, flower pots and any other container that can hold water.
Because of the risk of birth defects associated with Zika, pregnant women should consider delaying travel to areas where the virus is being spread and prevent sexual transmission by avoiding unprotected sexual contact with partners who have traveled to places with active Zika transmission.
Texas has had 218 reported Zika cases, all related to travel, including two cases transmitted via sexual contact with someone infected overseas and two infants who were infected before birth.