Six pregnant women in Texas have tested positive for Zika, according to health authorities’ announcement on Thursday. They are the first cases of Zika reported this year, specifically in Harris County.

Legacy Community Health – which is a system of 29 clinics in southeast Texas – informed that the women were infected when they traveled outside the United States. They have delivered their babies, and neither of them seemed to be infected with the virus, but they will remain under medical control. Last year Legacy reported eight cases of Zika.

Image credit: State of Reform
Image credit: State of Reform

“The threat of Zika is lower this year than last in our hemisphere, but as our six latest cases show, pregnant women in Texas should remain vigilant,” said Dr. Ann Barnes, Legacy’s chief medical officer in a statement.

The six infected women’s babies don’t show Zika-related congenital disabilities

Zika is definitely a virus people should be aware of. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was a global public health emergency last November. Especially, doctors and health authorities have highlighted the threats this mosquito-transmitted virus has on fetuses. Therefore, since the sprout of this virus back in 2015, American women have been advised not to travel to infected areas – especially South America and the Caribbean – if they are pregnant or they suspect a pregnancy.  Zika can cause permanent damages for unborn babies. According to doctors, being infected with Zika during pregnancy can lead to microcephaly where the child’s brain is not enough developed and has a smaller size than it should.

For that reason, alarms were raised as the six pregnant women tested positive for Zika in Texas. Legacy community health informed that they knew of these cases a few months ago and they monitored their pregnancies.

“Patient education in Harris County must continue through this year’s mosquito season, added Dr. Ann Barnes. “Prevention must be the key message coming from public health officials and health care providers.”

Other 14 Zika cases have been reported in 2017 in the state during this year. 323 people have tested positive for Zika since 2015 in Texas. 206 of these cases were pregnant women, according to Texas Department of State Health Services spokesman Chris Van Deusen. 148 of these 206 women delivered their babies, 13 of these births showed Zika-related birth defects. Four babies of the 148 births tested positive for Zika when they were born while 6 of these cases didn’t test positive for the virus. There are 3 cases which the authorities have not confirmed their status.

Image credit: Getty Images / Time
Image credit: Getty Images / Time

Zika cases have dropped in the U.S, but pregnant women must remain vigilant

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is a drop in Zika cases across the continental U.S. However, people must remain alert during the mosquito season since new cases have been found in different states in the last weeks. The CDC recently recommended pregnant women to postpone travels to Cameron County in South Texas and Miami Dade County in south Florida. In 2016, Cameron County was considered a yellow area, because 5 cases of Zika were locally transmitted in its central city, Brownsville.

According to Zika expert, Dr. Peter Hotez who is also the dean of Baylor College of Medicine’s National School of Tropical Medicine, cases in Texas are probably going to increase because last winter was warm, and that helped increase the numbers of mosquitos. Hotez also highlighted that Zika cases have been reduced worldwide.

Hotez said that the Zika threats are still high in places such as Ecuador, Argentina, and Peru, in South America. These would not have a great impact on the U.S inhabitants, but people must be more cautioned for cases that might come from Mexico, especially because the rainy season in this country is just beginning. Most of the Zika cases reported in Texas come from this country, while Miami is mostly affected by transmission from the Caribbean.

“We may not be out of the woods and there could be a significant level of Zika transmission in Mexico this summer and that would have implications for South Texas,” he said.

Women in Texas should talk about the possibilities and consequences of Zika for the babies and what measures they can take to avoid it.

Zika, in general, doesn’t have such bad symptoms. It includes fever, rash, and joint pain, but it is certainly harmful to fetuses. As well, it is important to know that the Aedes aegypti doesn’t only transmit Zika but also other viruses, such as dengue, chikungunya, and the West Nile virus, so it is vital to take preventions to avoid contact with mosquitos during this season.

Source: ABC 13 News