AUSTIN (KXAN) — An alert issued for six Rio Grande Valley counties urges health providers to consider the possibility of Zika infection in their patients and to test those with symptoms.
Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, Webb, Willacy and Zapata counties were included in the Texas Department of State Health Services alert on Monday.
The department recommends testing pregnant women who live in the warned area and have at least two of the four most common Zika symptoms (fever, rash, joint pain and eye redness), regardless of their travel history or other risk factors.
Statewide, anyone with at least three of those symptoms should be tested. The department also recommends all pregnant women who have traveled to an area with active Zika transmission to get tested, regardless of symptoms.
While there have been no reported locally spread cases of the Zika virus in Texas, the Rio Grande Valley is considered to be at higher risk for Zika transmission because of previous outbreaks of dengue, which is a similar virus spread by the same type of mosquito. Texas has 215 reported cases of Zika that are all related to travel, including two cases transmitted through sexual contact with someone infected overseas and two infants infected before birth.
DSHS recommends pregnant women delay travel to areas where the virus is being spread and prevent sexual transmission by avoiding unprotected sexual contact with partners who have traveled to locations with active Zika transmission.
“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.”
You 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.