For about a month now, Texas has provided mosquito repellant to low-income women and children. It’s in an effort to prevent the spread of Zika – just in case the virus infects local mosquito populations.
That hasn’t happened so far, and there are still a lot of unknowns about what the effect of Zika will be in Texas. But OBGYN’s in Texas are including Zika prevention into their regular check-ups anyway.
Dr. Ashley Choucroun is an OBGYN with CommUnity Care in Austin, and she says screening for Zika has become the norm.
“First of all, we screen patients at every OB visit whether it’s their initial OB visit or return visit for possible exposure,” she says.
That includes asking whether they – or their sexual partners – have traveled to places with an active Zika outbreak. Choucroun says she’s also advising all her pregnant patients to aggressively prevent exposure to mosquitoes. That’s gotten a lot easier recently because the state has made mosquito repellant free for many of her patients – who are mostly Medicaid enrollees.
“As soon as the state came out with coverage for mosquito repellant, CommUnity Care was very quick in updating our system so that we could sent our prescriptions, so now we send it for all our patients,” she says.
Now Choucroun says she writes a prescription for things like prenatal vitamins and mosquito repellant when she sees her patients. Pregnant women are most at-risk when it comes to Zika, a virus that’s caused brain abnormalities in fetuses. Even though the state has had almost 200 cases of Zika so far, they’ve almost all been travel-related. There is still no evidence that Zika has made its way into the Texas mosquito population like it has in Florida, and we still don’t know a lot of other things about the virus, which Choucroun says complicates things.
“So, there are so many unknowns that it is sort of a difficult situation, but the best we can do now is be honest with our patients about what we know and what we don’t know and help them protect themselves,” she says.
Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, says state health officials will continue to work with doctors in the state and give them information as they get it, too.
“Certainly, we will continue to talk to doctors and share information that we get – you know, the things that other states are seeing and information we are getting from the CDC and abroad – with them,” Van Deusen says. “So, yeah, that conversation certainly continues with doctors anytime we can have it.”
Van Deusen says the state has been actively testing mosquito populations in the Rio Grande Valley, as well as staying on top of human testing.