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Physicians Adjust to Developing Zika Preventive Measures

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HARLINGEN - Community clinics throughout Cameron County are responding to an increasing number of people asking to be tested for the Zika virus.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory for Brownsville after five locally transmitted cases were confirmed. It recommends all pregnant women that traveled to the area get tested.

Cameron County health officials are currently doing what they can to ensure doctors are staying up-to-date with the changing recommendations.

Harlingen resident Ashley Person is 16 weeks pregnant with her second child. She went to a local clinic to get tested for the virus. Her submitted samples will be sent to the state lab for screening.

Person said she has no intention of going to Brownsville.

“It’s really scary because that’s something that will change my baby’s entire life, and my life. It’s not worth it to go there. It’s just not,” she said.

The rise in concerns is also increasing health providers’ workload. Harlingen Public Health Clinic nurse practitioner Yvette Ortega said besides patients, at least 15 pregnant women also visited the clinic on Monday for Zika testing.

“Every day there’s new information. I mean, I get up in the morning and I look at texaszika.org to see what’s new. Is there a new protocol they want us to do? Are there new guidelines to talk to the patient?’” she said. “For the practitioner it’s difficult since it’s changing so rapidly. Maybe what I was doing yesterday, I’m not supposed to do today.”

Doctors from across the Rio Grande Valley gathered in Rancho Viejo to review or learn about what symptoms they should be looking out for, who needs to get tested and how to properly take blood and urine samples.

They also learned how to correctly fill out necessary paperwork. The paperwork for submitting test samples is one of the newest aspects for local physicians.

Cameron County Health Director Esmeralda Guajardo said they are doing what they can to stay ahead of the virus.

“One of the things I always push for is that we need to be more proactive as opposed to reactive. And so, now that we know that we have Zika in the community, we need to make sure we move forward in a proactive approach even though it’s already here,” she said.

Ortega admitted the constant developing information and additional workload is overwhelming.

“They are frightened. They’re concerned. They’re very unsure of what’s happening and so we want to be able to provide them a little bit of information while they are here too, because they have questions that they want answered,” she said.

As researchers find out more about the virus, local health providers will have to continue to make the necessary adjustments.

County officials said doctors need to make sure to take their time and be accurate with the process to prevent delays in testing. They’re also sending patients home with a bag full of mosquito repellent, contraceptives and additional information to read. 

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