Summer ain't over yet — so neither are the mosquitoes nor the news on Zika.
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) added three more counties (Kinney, Maverick, and Val Verde) to the places in Texas where it recommends routine Zika virus testing for pregnant women.
Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, Webb, Willacy, and Zapata counties were already on the list. If you're unfamiliar with the counties on the list (and nobody expects you to know where all 254 counties in Texas are), note that most sit along the Rio Grande.
"This nine-county area is at a higher risk of Zika spreading by mosquitoes because of its climate and geography," DSHS said in the alert. "Reports out of Mexico show local Zika transmission continues to occur in some states and communities on the Mexican side of the border."
DSHS also is changing the number of times physicians should test women in these higher-risk areas to three times during pregnancy, rather than two.
So here's what this means if you treat patients in the nine counties on the list:
- Test pregnant women three times during pregnancy for Zika.
- Test anyone else who has an itchy rash plus one other common Zika symptom: fever, joint pain, or eye redness.
If you live anywhere else, continue to watch out for Zika in your patients and use your clinical judgment if you believe somebody should be tested.
Now here's a little good news: "There's no evidence of ongoing Zika transmission anywhere in Texas," DSHS said.
However, "Texas is entering peak season for mosquito-borne disease, and people statewide should continue to protect themselves from mosquito bites by consistently using mosquito repellent when outside, wearing long sleeves and pants, and using air conditioning or making sure door and window screens will keep mosquitoes out of the home."
So there ya go. Use your best judgment, and continue to provide the excellent care you always have.
And if you want more information, you can't do any better than TexasZika.org and TMA's Infectious Diseases Resource Center.
Action, Sept. 1, 2017