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Tag Archives: zika in texas

Health Department announces First Case of Zika in El Paso; Man Contracted Virus in Florida

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health announced Monday afternoon that an El Pasoan contracted the Zika virus after traveling to the Greater Miami area.

During a news conference, officials say the man traveled to Miami area, contracted the Zika virus while there and then returned to El Paso.  Officials added that the man was no longer infectious and that residents should remain vigilant against mosquitoes after recent rains.

“The patient provided blood and urine samples which were tested and came back positive. What we know is that this individual is recovering and is not considered a threat to the community,” said Robert Resendes, Public Health Director. “What we need is the community to take note that Zika virus is real, and we must protect ourselves and the community.”

The mosquito-borne virus has caused the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue travel warnings for pregnant women. The DPH is also encouraging anyone who may be traveling to Zika-affected regions including certain areas of Florida, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Pacific Islands, and U.S. territories to take strict precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes.

Because Zika can also be transmitted sexually, pregnant women with a male partner who travels to a Zika-affected area should either abstain from sexual activity, or use condoms correctly and consistently for the duration of their pregnancy to protect the unborn fetus from the risk of severe birth defects, including microcephaly.

Additionally, non-pregnant women of childbearing age who travel, or who have a male partner that travels, to a Zika-affected region, should talk with their healthcare providers about their pregnancy plans and take steps to avoid any unintended pregnancy, including correct and consistent condom use.

According to the Department of State Health Services, there are 108 reported cases of Zika virus disease in Texas.

Efforts to combat the Zika virus and the mosquitoes that transmit the disease began locally in February after an outbreak was detected in Brazil. On May 9 the DPH convened a stakeholders meeting with key officials in public health and other related fields. Contact with these groups continues as the threat of local transmission remains a possibility.

Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week.

Officials took the opportunity to again ask residents across the Borderland to take a proactive approach against mosquito-borne diseases by making sure they “Tip and Toss” items that are retaining water in their yards.  These mosquitoes are responsible for spreading various diseases such as West Nile virus and have the potential of bringing the Zika virus to our area.

The Department also wants to get residents in the habit of using the following additional prevention measures:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Stay in cool places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol.

(Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.)

Texas Relying on Nonprofit Clinics for Zika Defense

The walls at the Legacy Community Health clinic in Houston are plastered with signs urging patients like 22-year-old Josseline Lopez — who at 29 weeks pregnant came this week for an ultrasound — to tell their doctor if they have traveled to Central or South America.

With 13 confirmed cases in Texas, the Zika virus, widespread in parts of Latin America and suspected to be linked to birth defects, has put public health officials here on high alert.

But access to preventive health care in the state, with its high rate of uninsured people, can prove challenging for the state’s poorest residents, many of whom are at greater risk for contracting a mosquito-borne virus like Zika, experts say. To serve those Texans, the state is relying heavily on nonprofit community clinics to be the front line of public health defense.

Health officials have confirmed 12 cases of the virus contracted by people who were infected overseas and diagnosed when they returned home, and one person in Dallas caught the virus by sexual transmission.

“We feel like it’s only a matter of time” before someone tests positive for the virus at Legacy, said Katy Caldwell, the community clinic’s chief executive. She estimated nearly half of patients at Legacy had a connection to Central or South America, whether having immigrated from the region or having family there.

It’s a sentiment echoed by workers at community health clinics around the state, which typically serve large numbers of uninsured Latinos. Roughly 20 percent of Texans are uninsured, and Hispanics are more likely than other racial or ethnic groups to lack health insurance in Texas, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Experts say patients who rely on community clinics for health care are at greater risk for Zika because they are more likely to live in substandard housing — risking greater exposure to mosquitoes — and to have contact with relatives in Latin American countries where the virus is more prevalent.

“We’re on a status of heightened alert,” said Kavon Young, medical director at El Centro de Corazón in Houston. “The patient population that we serve comes primarily from Central and South America.”

Young noted that about 75 percent of the services provided by her clinic’s women’s health practice were devoted to prenatal care. Researchers suspect Zika virus is linked to microcephaly, a condition causing children to be born with abnormally small brains and skulls.

The World Health Organization recently called Zika virus a public health emergency, and the U.S. government has urged pregnant women not to travel to roughly 20 Latin American countries, including Brazil, where public health officials have reported around 4,000 cases of microcephaly since October.

In Texas, the task of screening people most at risk for infection has fallen to nonprofits.

“Our patients have the greatest likelihood of living in poor housing conditions, lacking window screens, having family members that travel back and forth to Mexico or Central America or working in jobs or under conditions that may not have been treated for mosquito infestation,” said José Camacho, executive director of the Texas Association of Community Health Centers. Community clinics belonging to the trade organization saw 1.2 million patients in 2014, of which 46 percent were uninsured and 73 percent were in poverty, he said.

“We pick up primary care needs of patients who don’t have access to hospital, to specialty, to diagnostics, et cetera.”

Clinic workers say they have been in constant contact with public health officials at the state and federal level to try to track the spread of infections.

“This is a virus that’s new to everybody,” said Pat Klase, chief nursing officer at Su Clinica Familiar, a clinic in Harlingen with about 34,000 registered patients, mostly Latino. She said her clinic had focused on educating people about preventive measures such as mosquito control.

Su Clinica Familiar, Legacy and El Centro de Corazón are three of Texas’ more than 70 Federally Qualified Health Centers, which are financed by a hodgepodge of federal and state grants, public insurance programs like Medicaid and Medicare, and in some cases local funding. Patients are typically eligible for services based on their family income, and clinics charge for services on a sliding fee schedule, according to income.

The Zika virus is typically transmitted by mosquitoes. So far, no mosquitoes have tested positive for Zika in Texas, but public health officials expect that to change.

“It is likely, eventually, that Zika will become locally transmitted by mosquito populations in the U.S.,” Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt told lawmakers earlier this month.

Hellerstedt said the state would do “everything that we can” to prevent that from happening but that many preventive measures will “take place on the local level.”

Federal public health officials echoed the sentiment this week on a conference call with community clinic workers.

“The better surveillance we have, the better we can track this epidemic,” Laurence Slutsker, the director for the division of parasitic diseases and malaria at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on the call. “It’s going to be very fast moving.”

The most common symptoms of the Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, according to public health officials.

Disclosure: The Texas Association of Community Health Centers is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Author: Edgar Walters – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues

Texas Officials Report Nine Cases of Zika Virus Infection

AUSTIN, Texas – Public health officials in Texas are reporting nine cases of the Zika virus in the state’s three largest cities. The Department of State Health Services said Tuesday it has confirmed seven cases in the Houston area and one in San Antonio, all persons who recently traveled to countries with a high infection rate.

A single case in Dallas is believed to be the result of sexual transmission. Tom Skinner, spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says the growing number of Zika cases has his agency moving quickly.

“We activated our emergency operations center, which allows us to pull resources from across CDC, and enhance our ability to respond,” he says. “We are sort of in a full-court press trying to learn as much as we can about Zika virus.”

Skinner says the CDC believes better sanitation conditions in the U.S. will prevent a widespread outbreak here, but also predicts the number of cases will continue to grow.

Zika is almost exclusively spread by infected mosquitoes, though there have been reports of infections through sexual contact. The virus can cause minor flu-like symptoms, but when pregnant women are infected, their babies may be born with severe birth defects.

Texas health officials say they depend on the CDC labs to confirm Zika cases, as the state’s labs don’t yet have that capability. Skinner says CDC staff is working to change that.

“We’re working to improve our ability to diagnose Zika virus infection through laboratory tests,” he says. “There’s only a handful of states that can actually do the kind of testing for Zika to diagnose, so we’re working to enhance the states’ abilities.”

The highest rates of Zika infections have been reported in the Caribbean basin, Central and South America, and southern Mexico. The CDC has issued travel warnings for those areas, particularly for women who are pregnant or are considering becoming pregnant.

Author: Mark Richardson, Public News Service

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