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Texas Pursuing More Federal Funding As It Braces For Zika

Wendy Rigby
Texas Public Radio
Pregnant women infected with Zika are at risk for delivering babies with birth defects.

Texas health officials say we’re better prepared this year than last to protect against the Zika virus and the mosquitos that spread it, but additional federal money would help. 

The state’s two U.S. senators are trying to loosen some purse strings.

In a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz write that Congress appropriated $1.1 billion last fall to prevent the transmission of Zika and to respond to outbreaks. They say about 13 percent of the money- $144 million- has not been spent.  They want to know how much of the remaining dollars might be available for Texas.

Chris Van Deusen, with the Texas Department of State Health Services says in 2016 and 2017 the Lone Star State has received $29 million in federal money for the fight against Zika.  The dollars have been used to educate the public about the virus and to control mosquitos. It’s been used to test pregnant women whose babies can develop brain damage if the mothers are infected with Zika.   

Van Deusen says additional money would allow Texas to better prevent an outbreak.

“Just doing more active surveillance.   Going into communities and health providers and doing more Zika testing just to again increase the likelihood we’re going to find Zika if and when it really does show up.

Van Deusen says the state knows of 10 Texas babies with birth defects who’ve been born to mothers with Zika in the past year.  Three of those babies tested positive for the virus and had microcephaly which affects brain development.

Recently health officials began urging all pregnant women in six Texas border counties to be tested for Zika.  The counties on that list are Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, Willacy, Webb and Zapata.