Public Health Officials Outline Zika Testing Guidance

News Release
News Release
December 15, 2016

Note: This news release was updated on Dec. 15 to clarify that the new testing guidance applies only to pregnant women.

News Release
Dec. 14, 2016

As state and local health departments investigate five locally transmitted cases ofZika virus disease in a small area of Brownsville, the U.S. Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention has issued updated guidance for pregnant women living inand traveling to Brownsville.

While the risk ofexposure in Brownsville is thought to be low, in accordance with the CDCguidance, the Texas Department of State Health Services recommends all pregnantBrownsville residents and pregnant women who travel there on or after Oct. 29 be tested for Zika. Residentsand frequent travelers, who visit Brownsville on a daily or weekly basis,should get routine Zika testing once during the first trimester of their pregnancyand once during the second trimester. Pregnant women with limited travel shoulddiscuss it with their doctor and be tested based on when the travel occurred.Because of the risk of sexual transmission, the same recommendations apply to pregnant women who have sex without a condom with a partner who is a Brownsvilleresident or traveler.

Health care providers can find more detailedtesting guidance in the CDC health alert. DSHS is also emphasizing itsprevious guidance to test pregnant women who have Zika symptoms or who travelto Mexico or other areas where mosquitoes are spreading Zika.

“Right now, we’re aware that localtransmission has occurred in a small area of Brownsville,” said Dr. JohnHellerstedt, DSHS commissioner. “However, we want to cast a wide net withtesting to develop a clearer picture of what is happening with Zika in the areaand provide pregnant women with more information about their health.”

Health officials continue to recommendpregnant women avoid travel across the border to Mexico, given the ongoing local transmission ofZika there. DSHS also continues to urge everyone strictly follow personalprecautions against Zika, including the use of mosquito repellent and wearinglong sleeves and pants. DSHS particularly urges the use of these precautions inhigher risk areas along the border and during any travel to areas with activeZika transmission.

Zika virus istransmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito,though it can also spread by sexual contact. The four most common symptoms arefever, itchy rash, joint pain and eye redness. While symptoms are usuallyminor, Zika can also cause severe birth defects, including microcephaly, andother poor birth outcomes in some women infected during pregnancy. Moreguidance for clinicians, recommendations for the public and updated case countsare available at


(News Media Contact: ChrisVan Deusen, DSHS Director of Media Relations, 512-776-7753)

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