Protecting Rio Grande Valley Residents

Newborn baby sleeping in female patient's arms

Cases of the Zika virus have been reported in the Rio Grande Valley. The Zika virus is primarily spread to humans from mosquito bites. The virus can be spread from mothers to their unborn children, as well as through blood transfusion and sexual contact.

The majority of individuals infected with the Zika virus have mild or no symptoms. Those who do develop symptoms typically have a mild illness that lasts a few days to a week. The most common symptoms of Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon and fatalities are rare.

Actions that South Texas Health System McAllen is taking to protect pregnant women and newborns are described in detail below.

Precautionary Measures for Pregnant Women

Every pregnant women who chooses to have her baby at South Texas Health System McAllen will have an infectious disease screen performed and questions will be asked about travel and any signs or symptoms of infection (acute onset of fever, maculopapular rash, arthralgia, or conjunctivitis). When there is a history of travel to an area with Zika virus transmission and clinical signs and symptoms, an obstetric sonogram is ordered to detect microcephaly—or a smaller-than-normal head—and a test for Zika virus infection is performed.

Zika virus risks and warning signs are communicated to childbirth class attendees.

Zika Virus What you should know: How to help prevent Zika

Prepared for Infected Patients

South Texas Health System McAllen has a maternal/fetal specialist and an infectious disease specialist who would both be consulted by the obstetrician for any patient suspected of Zika virus infection. Patients are treated with rest, fluids, analgesics for the aches and pains and antipyretics for the fever. The obstetrician would work with a multidisciplinary team which involves the maternal/fetal specialist, infectious disease physician, neonatologist, the Infection Prevention and Control Department and Laboratory Department to coordinate care for any pregnant patient with Zika virus infection.

South Texas Health System McAllen's neonatology team specializes in care of newborn infants, especially those with acute needs, such as premature or underweight infants, those with congenital birth defects and infants with serious illnesses. Any baby born with microcephaly due to Zika virus would be provided standard NICU care and have imaging series performed. The baby's parents would consult with a pediatric infectious disease specialist.

Zika Virus What you should know: Symptoms

Additional Resources

Additional resources on the Zika virus are available on the Texas Department of State Health Services.