Governor Greg Abbott urges Texans to take precautions against Zika virus

Governor Greg Abbott is encouraging Texans to take precautions against mosquito bites to keep the Zika virus from spreading.

So far, there have been no cases acquired locally in the Lone Star State, but almost 100 travel-related cases have been reported.

The Governor said he has secured millions of dollars in state and federal funds to combat the Zika virus in Texas.

The Texas Department of State Health Services will also be monitoring travel-related cases.

The Zika virus has hit populations in Latin America, Brazil and Puerto Rico especially hard, but travelers to those destinations sometimes bring it back to the U.S.

“We are working with local partners to monitor travel-related cases right here in Texas,” Abbott said in a video released Sunday. 

So far, more than 1,800 travel-related cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“First of all, they should know about it before they go there. They should take every precaution they possibly can while they're there to keep from being bitten by a mosquito and once they get back to the United States they should continue those precautions,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt with the Texas Department of State Health Services. 

When a pregnant woman is infected with the virus she can pass it on to her unborn baby causing birth defects that can include brain damage.
Abbott, with a little help from first dog Pancake, outlined some of the precautions Texans can take to fight back against Zika infected mosquitoes.

“Look around outside your home or your apartment for places that mosquitoes may breed, remove any standing water, clear the area of any containers that could hold water,” Abbott advised. 

Texas Medicaid has agreed to cover insect repellent for qualified woman between the ages of 10 and 45 or that are pregnant. They only need to have a doctor call in a prescription to their local pharmacy.

“Use insect repellent as directed and wear long sleeves and long pants whenever possible, try to limit outdoor activities during the daytime when Zika carrying mosquitoes are most active,” said Abbott. 

With hundreds of U.S. athletes in Brazil for the Olympic Games, that advice will be even more important as they return.

“The thing to remember about Zika is it's transmitted by mosquitoes, but it's spread by people. So it's really infected people traveling from one area where they acquired it to another area where it doesn't exist yet, that's what infects that next area,” Hellerstedt said. 

Florida has already seen six cases of Zika that were contracted in the United States.

Governor Abbott is hoping the next area to have an outbreak is not the lone star state, but he said we're getting ready just in case.

“I directed the Texas Department of Health Services to work closely with our local partners, as well as the Centers for Disease Control, to prevent a Zika outbreak here in Texas, as well as to prepare the strongest possible Zika response plan,” said Abbott.

Most people with the Zika virus have mild or no symptoms at all.

Women who are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant that have visited an area where the Zika virus has spread should contact their doctor.