You can help the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) prevent the spread of Zika virus by downloading and printing educational materials to display in your office from the department's Zika toolkit. The toolkit features posters, push cards, and fact sheets, as well as TV and radio spots and graphics you can share and post via social media. DSHS also developed flyers and door hangers (available in English and Spanish) you can use in your office to educate your patients on protecting themselves from the disease.
To help ensure Texas physicians have all they need to diagnose the virus, the texaszika.org website features a supplemental testing information form and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and serology specimen criteria form. The PCR test can confirm the presence of Zika virus. Serologic testing can detect Zika infection in people who may not have had symptoms, and the test can be conducted up to 12 weeks after infection. DSHS says a positive serologic test result requires confirmatory testing to pinpoint Zika because it can cross-react with other viruses, such as dengue.
The disease can cause fever, rash, muscle and joint aches, and red eyes, and also has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly and other poor birth outcomes in some women infected during their pregnancy.
DSHS reports that as of June 7, Texas had 40 reported cases of Zika virus disease. Of those, 39 were in travelers infected abroad and diagnosed after they returned home; one of those travelers was a pregnant woman. One case involved a Dallas County resident who had sexual contact with someone who acquired the Zika infection while traveling abroad. Nationally, as reported by CDC, 618 people in the continental United States, and 1,114 in U.S. territories had tested positive for the virus as of June 1.
DSHS is testing for Zika virus at its public health lab in Austin. CDC encourages Texas physicians to report suspected Zika virus cases to DSHS.
According to DSHS, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes can be found in Texas, particularly in urban areas in the south and southeast portions of the state. While there is no evidence of local transmission by Texas mosquitoes yet, state health officials have implemented Zika virus prevention plans in anticipation of increased mosquito activity and the potential for local mosquito transmission.
You can learn more about Zika by viewing this informative video by Houston obstetrician Catherine Eppes, MD, who delves into what physicians need to know about Zika. In May, Dr. Eppes, whose high-risk pregnancy clinic has been overrun by women concerned about Zika infection, told the Senate Health and Human Services Committee that Texas needs to find more ways to screen pregnant women for the Zika virus. "The combination of a relatively new but profoundly significant disease with little knowledge about the exact timing and rates of transmission, and complex, often inaccessible testing options leaves pregnant women and physicians frustrated," the member of the TMA Committee on Maternal and Perinatal Health said. "I think doctors would benefit from statewide dissemination of the options and costs for testing within our state and city health departments."
Dr. Eppes also recommended Texas Medicaid and the Women's Health Program be authorized to support the screening and testing of their eligible populations.
As of May 26, CDC reports there were 195 pregnant women in the U.S. states and 146 pregnant women in the U.S. territories with laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus infection. That is a total of 341 pregnant women in U.S. states and territories.
TMA and the Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have prepared guidance for physicians on the Zika virus and pregnant patients.
General information about Zika virus
Update: Interim Guidance for Prevention of Sexual Transmission of Zika Virus — United States, 2016
Information for clinicians
Protection against mosquitoes
Zika virus travel notices
DSHS Zika toolkit
Action, June 15, 2016