State Health Officials Urge Zika Testing in Rio Grande Valley

News Release
October 3, 2016

News Release
October 3, 2016

The Texas Department of StateHealth Services today issued a health alert encouraging health care providersin Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, Webb, Willacy and Zapata counties to consider Zikavirus infection in their patients and order testing as medically indicated.


DSHS recommendstesting pregnant women who live in this area and have at least two of the four most common Zikasymptoms – fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (eye redness) – regardlessof their travel history or other risk factors. In line with current testingcriteria, DSHS continues to recommend testing anyone with at least three of those symptoms statewide andall pregnant women who have traveled to an area with active Zika transmission,regardless of symptoms.


There have been noreported cases of Zika transmitted in Texas, but the Rio Grande Valley is considered to beat higher risk for Zika transmission because of previous outbreaks of dengue, asimilar virus spread by the same type of mosquito.


“Wedon’t have any evidence that the virus is being transmitted by mosquitoes inTexas, but as Zika continues to spread in the Western Hemisphere, now is the timeto increase our surveillance,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, Commissioner of DSHS.“Doctors should be looking for Zika in their patients, and everyone should betaking personal precautions to prevent Zika infection.”  


Peoplecan help prevent the spread of Zika by mosquito bite by:


  • Using EPA-approved insect repellent every timethey go outside.
  • Wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts thatcover exposed skin.
  • Using air conditioning or window and doorscreens 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 containerthat can hold water.


Because of therisk of birth defects associated with Zika, pregnant women should considerdelaying travel to areas where the virus is being spread and prevent sexualtransmission by avoiding unprotected sexual contact with partners who havetraveled to places with active Zika transmission.


Texas has had 218 reportedZika cases, all related to travel, including two cases transmitted via sexual contactwith someone infected overseas and two infants who were infected before birth.


The health alert isavailable at /news/releases/2016/zika-health-alert.aspx. Additionalinformation for health care providers and the public is available at


(News Media Contact: ChrisVan Deusen, DSHS Press Officer, 512-776-7753)

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