Zika Virus in Texas
Legacy Policy Paper | July 2016
While the mosquito-borne Zika virus can be transmitted to both men and women through a mosquito bite and sexual contact, the most at-risk group are pregnant women or those considering pregnancy. The virus can cause severe, lifelong birth defects. There is currently no vaccine for Zika.
As one of the nation’s largest community health centers, Legacy is invested in prevention measures, given the agency sees 300 pregnant women a day – many of whom travel to Central and South America – and four of whom have tested positive for Zika.
THE PROBLEM: U.S. GOVERNMENT INACTION
Given its geographic location along the Gulf of Mexico and rain-heavy climate, public health officials place Houston in the virus’ crosshairs. Yet government inaction is blocking cities and states from being prepared for mosquito season.
- Four months ago, the Obama Administration requested $1.9 billion in emergency funds from Congress to help states with mosquito controls and accelerating a vaccine.
- Yet Congress continues to stall because of partisan games – despite a Kaiser Foundation poll showing a bipartisan supermajority of the American people (72%) want more Zika funding. This is Exhibit A on why Americans are fed up with Washington politics.
- Like many other health care organizations and federal and state public health officials, Legacy again calls on Congress to put public health ahead of petty politics and pass a meaningful bill. The clock is ticking.
STATE OF PLAY IN TEXAS
- Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has been a champion who wants to get ahead of Zika spreading in Houston. He has cracked down on illegal tire dumping (which attracts mosquitos) and has rightly called on the state of Texas to declare a public health emergency, which would release much needed funding to help prevent the virus’ spread.
- In February, Legacy issued a travel advisory to its pregnant patients, or those considering pregnancy, to not travel to the affected regions. In June, the agency began providing free Zika Prevention Packs, which include insect repellant with DEET and condoms.