The Texas Department of State Health Services 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 has updated its guidance for testing pregnant women and now 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 — 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.
TMA and the Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have prepared guidance for physicians on screening for and talking to patients about Zika.
There have been no reported cases of mosquito-transmitted Zika in Texas, but DSHS says 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 John Hellerstedt, MD, DSHS commissioner. "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 Environmental Protection Agency-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.
DSHS says Texas has had 215 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.
For more information about what Texas is doing to prepare for Zika, read "Zika: Fighting a Potential Epidemic" in the August issue of Texas Medicine. Additional information for health care professionals and the public is available at www.TexasZika.org.