August 3, 2016
With local Zika cases detected in Florida and
increased travel to Brazil for the Summer Olympics, Texas is on high alert for
local Zika transmission by mosquito bites and is urging everyone to strictly
“It’s the perfect mix – local transmission in
Florida, travel to Brazil, and we’re at the height of mosquito season in Texas,”
said Dr. John Hellerstedt, Texas Department of State Health Services
commissioner. “Local transmission here is likely at some point. The good news
is that Texas is ready.”
The Texas response plan is in effect. Texas
has reported 93 cases of Zika virus disease – all related to travel abroad to
areas with active Zika transmission. No local transmission through mosquito
bite has been detected yet in Texas. State efforts have been underway since
January to delay and minimize the impact of Zika on Texas.
“If Texas has
local transmission, we’ll quickly announce it and describe the area of
potential risk for Texans,” Dr. Hellerstedt said. “We’re working in lockstep
with our local and federal partners to ensure a strong Texas response.”
DSHS is spending more than $6 million in
state and federal funds on disease surveillance, expanded lab testing
capabilities, public education and awareness, Zika prevention kits and other efforts
to build a strong infrastructure to help protect Texans from Zika. Texas
Medicaid announced today it will cover the cost of mosquito repellent for eligible
women who are between the ages of 10 and 45 or pregnant.
DSHS has identified and exercised eight state
public health Zika Response Teams that are ready to deploy if local
transmission is detected in Texas. These scalable regional teams will be able
to assist local entities with investigating possible cases, evaluating
environments for mosquito activity, providing door-to-door education and other
Last week, state health officials briefed
Gov. Greg Abbott on the state’s response and preparations. Next week the
Governor’s Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response will meet
again in Austin to discuss Zika and other issues.
“We’re doing everything we can, and people
have the power to protect themselves,” Dr. Hellerstedt said. “Insect repellent and
information are our best defense.”
precaution messages, DSHS has boosted its statewide Zika public outreach campaign, which now has an expanded budget and an
additional emphasis on travelers. The website www.TexasZika.org launched in February and continues to be the
anchor for the campaign and the source of official Texas public health
information about Zika.
While local transmission in Texas remains
likely at some point, public health officials do not expect widespread
transmission across large geographic areas of the state. Small pockets of cases
are more likely. This assessment is based on the state’s past experience with
dengue, a similar virus spread by the same mosquitoes, and on the prevalent use
of window screens, air conditioning, insect repellent and other mosquito
control efforts in Texas.
DSHS has approved more than 1,200 human
specimens for Zika virus testing by the DSHS laboratory and the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention. Other labs across the state now have the
ability to test for Zika. In late July, DSHS added the more complex serologic
testing for human specimens to detect Zika infection in people who may not have
had symptoms. Texas also has the capability to test mosquito specimens for Zika
as warranted for identified high-risk areas, though the best indicator of Zika
prevalence is human case detection.
Zika poses a
serious threat to unborn children, and protecting pregnant women is a central
concern. Texas has reported 42 individuals into the CDC’s Zika Pregnancy
Registry. That number includes three pregnant women who are confirmed Zika
cases. It also includes pregnant women and any newborns who have laboratory
evidence of Zika infection but don’t qualify as Zika cases because they have
had no symptoms or because the infection couldn’t specifically be identified as
Zika virus. Texas provides data to the Zika Pregnancy Registry weekly.
transmission in Florida and mosquito season in full force in Texas, state
health officials urge everyone to follow precautions to protect themselves from
- Apply EPA-approved insect repellent.
- Wear pants and long-sleeve shirts that cover
exposed skin. In warmer weather, wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that
covers exposed skin.
- Use screens or close windows and doors to keep
mosquitoes out of your home.
- Remove standing water in and around the home.
This includes water in cans, toys, tires, plant saucers, and any container that
can hold water.
- Cover trash cans or containers where water can
To avoid infecting
local mosquitoes, people who travel to areas with active Zika transmission
should apply insect repellent every time they go outside for at least three weeks
after they return to Texas – and longer if they develop an illness that could
(News Media Contact: Carrie Williams, 512-776-7119, email@example.com)
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