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Texas adds three counties to enhanced Zika testing recommendations

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With the ongoing threat of Zika in Texas, The Texas Department of State Health Services has issued a health alert recommending routine Zika virus testing for pregnant women who live in Kinney, Maverick and Val Verde counties. DSHS also advises testing anyone in those counties with an itchy rash plus one other common Zika symptom: fever, joint pain or eye redness. The new counties join Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, Webb, Willacy, and Zapata counties, where enhanced Zika surveillance is already occurring.

There’s no evidence of ongoing Zika transmission anywhere in Texas, but this nine-county area is at a higher risk of Zika spreading by mosquitoes because of its climate and geography. Reports out of Mexico show local Zika transmission continues to occur in some states and communities on the Mexican side of the border. Zika can cause severe birth defects in some cases when women are infected during pregnancy.

“Routine testing provides important information to women about their pregnancies,” said DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt. “It also increases the opportunity for public health to identify infections before Zika establishes itself in Texas so we can respond quickly.”

In addition to adding counties, DSHS is updating its advice to health care professionals to test women who live in the higher-risk area three times during pregnancy, rather than two. The change is consistent with recently updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health care providers can read more about the updated guidance in the DSHS health alert.

Texas is entering peak season for mosquito borne disease, and people statewide should continue to protect themselves from mosquito bites by consistently using mosquito repellent when outside, wearing long sleeves and pants, and using air conditioning or making sure door and window screens will keep mosquitoes out of the home. Providers and the public can find more information at TexasZika.org.

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