Prep

How one U.S. city is taking precautions for potential spread of Zika virus

(REUTERS/Alvin Baez)

Many women in Gulf Coast states like Florida and Texas are nervous about Zika virus spreading to their region as summer approaches. While the virus, which causes birth defects in newborns, has not been found in mosquitoes on the U.S. mainland, experts are nonetheless preparing for such a scenario.

“The first thing I’m discussing now is Zika,” says Dr. Jamie Nodler of fertility clinic Houston IVF. “Especially in Houston, a lot of our patients and families are in the oil and gas industry. These aren’t people who are traveling to Mexico and Puerto Rico for fun or vacation. These are people who have to work in some of these offshore drilling areas.” He told NPR that some couples he consults decided to delay fertility treatments out of concern that one partner could have potentially been exposed to the virus. For pregnant couples with such a partner, he advises using condoms to avoid potentially transmitting the virus.

NPR spoke to several Houston women who are acutely aware of the risk of Zika in their area. Annie Tursie, a 35-year old mom of two said she and her husband decided to wait to try for a third baby: “And if [Zika] does come this summer and it is a risk, then I probably just won’t even try for another one.” Tracy Smith, a Houston mom pregnant with twins in her second trimester, said she was advised to use the powerful insect-repellent DEET and considered moving with her two kids to a “less buggy” part of the city, even though she believes the potential of her getting the virus is low: “But the potential impact is so great — and those are the kinds of threats that can be scary and are, disproportionately, sort of taking up space in my brain,” she told NPR.

Doctors have opened up a special clinic in Houston where women who have traveled to Zika-affected areas can come for blood tests and counseling, offering them an ultrasound exam 15 weeks into the pregnancy. Nevertheless, they see Zika as a manageable risk, which is why they are not advising women not to get pregnant — but rather to beware of mosquito bites as a precaution.

Read the full story at NPR.

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