Texas Docs Readying for Possible Spike in Congenital Disease Transmission

by Morgan Montalvo

1200 WOAI News

Physicians in Texas are preparing for the possibility of large numbers of congenital disease among newborns this summer, News Radio 1200 WOAI News reports.

The primary  infectious diseases getting attention from health experts this year are  Zika, cytomegalovirus or CMV, HIV and syphilis, Dr. Catherine Epps tells  News Radio 1200 WOAI.

Epps says rainfall a  few weeks ago, followed by excessive heat, and large numbers of people  traveling, are conditions favorable to the spread of Zika, and make  difficult the predicting of congenital infection rates..

"What this summer will look like, it remains to be seen," she says.

Epps says while the  dangers of Zika, HIV and syphilis are well publicized,  fewer people  have heard of CMV, a herpes-related virus that can lead to serious birth  defects.

"Both for Zika and for  CMV unfortunately there aren't current therapeutic options," she says.  "There's a lot of science investigating both of those, and so hopefully  in the coming years there may be a vaccine and maybe even treatment.

"But as it stands right now, it's purely preventative," Epps says.

She says  women planning a pregnancy or already pregnant need to avoid: mosquito  bites; travel to area where Zika is present, such as South Texas;   unprotected sex with anyone who has traveled to areas where Zika is  reported. Those areas include South Texas, Mexico, and much of Latin  America. 

CMV, Epps  says is not considered a priority or "reportable" disease because of its  low reported numbers, but the virus can lead to Zika-like birth  defects, including loss, microcephaly, and brain abnormalities. 

Many  CMV-infected mothers she says, are asymptomatic. 

Preventative  measure for CMV include frequent hand washing, extra care when in health  care settings, not sharing food with others while pregnant, and use of  condoms.About 4,000 cases of CMV are reported annually in Texas, says Epps.

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