Cameron Co. Health Department Seeing Insufficient Zika State Funds
BROWNSVILLE – Cameron County officials said their fight against the Zika virus is beginning to feel forgotten. The health administrator said the state is providing more funding to other counties farther from the border.
Cameron County Health Administrator Esmeralda Guajardo say people constantly crossing the border is making the fight against Zika very difficult.
“This is one of those new emerging diseases that is out there, that the state is realizing very quickly we need to address this very differently than the rest of the state,” she said.
Guajardo believes the state doesn’t realize how big of an effort and money it takes to combat the daily threat.
Cameron County received $832,000 in state funds; Hidalgo County received about half that amount. The city of Houston and Harris County each received $1 million.
Guajardo said Cameron County health workers are doing double the work with less cash.
“They travel to Matamoros, and so we ask them how long were you there, what were you doing? Some people go for medical care, or were they there for personal reasons to go out to a family function, was it held outside, and do you recall being bit by a mosquito? So our work does not stop, it’s not that easy,” she said.
Nurse practitioner Yvette Ortega is battling the Zika threat up close. She works with pregnant women who sometimes forget, they’ve traveled to high-risk Zika areas.
“The farther away you are from the border then you’re not going to have those patients that are migrating back and forth. Maybe once a week going shopping in Matamoros or going to see grandma who is sick,” she said.
Ortega said she’s also seen the number of pregnant women infected go down by about 30 percent in the past two months.
“I don’t think that it’s because we don’t have people who are at risk, I think we’ve just kind of noticed that people are letting their guard down,” she said.
Guajardo said from January 2016 to now there’s been 28 positive Zika cases in Cameron County. Twelve of the cases were pregnant women.
“The impact is microcephaly, that’s the issue that we’re dealing with. People need to make sure that they don’t let their guard down,” she said.
Guajardo added that as Zika evolves, the challenges will continue. She hopes Cameron County will stay in the mix when it comes to funding.
Part of the funds that the county received will be used to set up a database to help keep track of pregnant women who test positive for Zika.
About $100,000 will pay for the database and a nurse will be hired and dedicated to keep track of the information. The database will keep localized information about women infected with Zika.
It will help provide support to women throughout their pregnancy, help monitor children at birth. A state registry also exists.
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