New Zika Study Looking into Cameron Co. Cases

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BROWNSVILLE – Several cases of the Zika virus have been reported in the Rio Grande Valley.

A new study published by The National Center for Biotechnology Information this week looks at Zika and microcephaly findings in women who lived in Brownsville during their pregnancies.

It says, beginning in 2016, women living there were possibly exposed to the Zika virus. 

The study identified 18 pregnant women from December of 2016 to May of 2017. Their test results indicated they were infected by the Zika virus.

Health professionals CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke to Thursday tell us there’s still a lot that’s unknown about the virus.

They tell us a lot of people are surprised to find out the virus can be spread sexually and more public outreach needs to be done.

Scientists say diagnosing congenital Zika is difficult. If a woman is infected with Zika during her pregnancy, doctors don’t know how to determine if the baby will have birth defects.

Paula Saldana is the lead patient navigator for Planned Parenthood in South Texas. She says the best thing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can recommend is taking preventative measures and planning when to start your family.

“If the person is seeking pregnancy, they need to be aware,” says Saldana. “They need to be looking for ways to prevent the mosquitos born around the area they visit. They need to be aware of any signs or symptoms, not just the person but their partner as well.”

Stephanie Schumann, writer for the Rio Grande Valley Mom’s blog, says she will soon be a mother of three.  

“I mean it’s definitely something I thought about after I got pregnant, but not while we were planning,” she explains. “I have a 4-year-old and I have a 16-month-old."

Schumann tells us feelings about the Zika virus vary between the moms she knows.

“Some moms are definitely more concerned than others and some moms. Maybe they don’t know enough about it, you know, they just assume it’s from a couple years ago and it’s all over,” she says. 

Medical professionals say it’s far from over.

“I feel that the part where it’s sexually transmitted needs to be more talked about,” explains Saldana.

Schumann tells us she didn’t take the virus into consideration when she was planning her third child.

“It wasn’t as big of a concern but it still is in the back of my mind every time I see an ultrasound,” she says.

The study describes two infants were evaluated for Zika after they were found to have microcephaly in the womb. 

The first baby was born to a 23-year-old who spent the first four months of her pregnancy in Matamoros before moving to Brownsville. She didn’t have symptoms of Zika and her fetus didn’t show any signs until she was 36 weeks along.

The second baby was born to an 18-year-old who lived in Brownsville but traveled weekly to Matamoros during the early stages of her pregnancy. She didn’t show any signs of the virus either but screened positive for Zika at 23 weeks.

Schumann says something no mother expects.

“I think at my very first doctor’s appointment they mentioned something about a Zika test and so that freaked me out a little bit,” she says. 

The Zika virus is spread to humans from mosquito bites. It can be spread from mothers to their fetus, through blood transfusion and through unprotected sex.

Many medical centers around the Valley are screening for Zika and asking pregnant women about their travel habits. They’re also asking women to look out for any symptoms of Zika.

The most common include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. However, most people infected with Zika don’t show symptoms. 

When there’s a history of travel to an area with Zika virus transmission or clinical symptoms, doctors look for microcephaly and a test for Zika is performed.


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