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With the return of rain and warmth: Zika

Bexar County has recorded one confirmed case of Zika in 2017, adding to the 20 cases it reported last year. All of those cases are thought to be travel-related, with the infection occurring in a place where local Zika transmission is occurring.

All blood donations to University Health System’s blood bank are now tested for Zika to ensure the safety of our blood supply. Patients considered at risk for Zika infection also can be tested by the University Health System laboratory.

Earlier this month, the Texas Department of State Health Services issued new recommendations for the Lower Rio Grande Valley counties of Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, Webb, Willacy and Zapata counties, thought to be at highest risk for local transmission of Zika. Cameron has had six locally transmitted cases to date.

The new recommendations call for all pregnant residents of those counties, along with anyone with a rash and at least one other common Zika symptom, to be tested. Those symptoms include fever, joint pain and eye redness. These new recommendations do not apply to Bexar County residents.

Health officials say the best protection against Zika is to avoid getting bitten. Use an EPA-approved insect repellant. Those containing DEET are proven effective and are safe for pregnant women.  Medicaid, CHIP and the Healthy Texas Women program will cover the cost of certain mosquito repellents for pregnant women, women ages 10-55, and males age 14 and up who are enrolled in Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and CHIP-Perinatal programs. Wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants (you can spray repellants on your clothes, too) and remove standing water around your home where mosquitoes can breed.

University Health System has been responding to the Zika threat since it became clear that infections in South Texas were inevitable, and have a number of experts available to interview on different aspects of managing it.

  • Risk and prevention of Zika infection to pregnant women and their babies: Dr. Patrick Ramsey is a maternal–fetal medicine specialist at UT Health San Antonio. He cares for women with complicated high-risk pregnancies and delivers babies at University Hospital. He’s extensively involved in outreach and planning with both Department of State Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control.
  • Zika virus and its diagnosis, symptoms and treatment: Dr. Jason Bowling is an infectious diseases specialist at UT Health San Antonio and director of hospital epidemiology at University Hospital.
  • Emergency response and management, public health, hospital and healthcare preparedness: Dr. Bryan Alsip is executive vice president and chief medical officer at University Hospital.

More information can be found on our Zika page:

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