13 Zika Cases in Texas Have Community Health Centers on High Alert

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February 27, 2016; Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune reports that nonprofit community health centers are becoming the first line of defense in an attempt to educate residents about the Zika virus. There have been 13 confirmed cases in Texas of Zika, which has been linked to birth defects, including microcephaly. Posters on the walls of the centers ask patients to tell their doctor if they have traveled to Central or South America, but one of those 13 cases was transmitted sexually.

“We feel like it’s only a matter of time” before someone tests positive for the virus at Legacy Community Health Center in Houston, said chief executive Katy Caldwell. She estimates that around 50 percent of the clinic’s patients have some connection to Central or South America. In Texas, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Hispanics are more likely than other racial or ethnic groups to lack health insurance.

Kavon Young, medical director at El Centro de Corazón in Houston, which serves a similar population, says that about 75 percent of the services provided by her clinic’s women’s health practice involve prenatal care.

In explaining why nonprofits will be the first line of defense for Zika screenings, José Camacho, executive director of the Texas Association of Community Health Centers, says, “Our patients have the greatest likelihood of living in poor housing conditions, lacking window screens, having family members that travel back and forth to Mexico or Central America or working in jobs or under conditions that may not have been treated for mosquito infestation.”—Ruth McCambridge