Staff Report – For The Record

Texas Medicaid announces insect repellent coverage for women

As recently reported in the news, the global outbreak of the Zika virus has now spread to the United States, potentially infecting newborn babies, children and adults. As of July, there are 6,400 confirmed cases of Zika in the U.S., with 15 of those people being infected by mosquitoes in the Miami, Florida area. In Texas, 93 cases have been reported, all related to travel abroad.

The Health and Human Services Commission has announced that, beginning August 9, it will cover the cost of mosquito repellent for females who are between the ages of 10 and 45 or pregnant and who are enrolled in Medicaid, CHIP or the Healthy Texas Women Program. To receive this benefit, eligible females must obtain a prescription for the repellent and must pick it up at a pharmacy. An office visit is not required if the physician calls the prescription in to the pharmacy. Eligible females can receive up to two cans of repellent per month through October 31.

The Zika virus can be transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. It can also be contracted through sexual contact with a partner who is infected with Zika, or it can be transmitted from an infected pregnant woman to her fetus. The virus remains in the blood stream for at least a week and can produce symptoms such as fever, joint pain, rashes and red eyes.

“Currently, there are no vaccinations or medicines for Zika, so it is critical to contact your doctor or health professional if you are concerned you may have the virus, especially if you are pregnant or plan on having children,” Stacy Wilson, president of the Children’s Hospital Association of Texas (CHAT) said. “We believe more federal funding is needed to provide states with additional resources to adequately address health concerns associated with Zika.”

CHAT recommends that people follow seven tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to minimize risk of infection.

•Use insect repellent regularly. Avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellent certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Insect repellents registered by the EPA contain a higher percentage of active ingredients that provide longer protection. Mosquitoes that spread the virus bite mostly during the daytime, so be sure to spray or be covered during that time.

•Protect yourself during pregnancy. Transmission of the virus during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects, such as microcephaly, which affects brain development. The CDC reports that 433 pregnant women in the U.S. have lab evidence of Zika. If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about safe ways to prevent infection. The CDC suggests using a condom during sex or not having sex during pregnancy, even if your partner does not show symptoms of Zika.

•Cover children during the daytime. Along with using insect repellent, dress your children with clothes that cover arms and legs. Shield strollers or baby carriers with mosquito netting to protect infants.

•Keep mosquitoes outside. Close or cover all holes and gaps in walls, windows and doors. Inspect your house for possible mosquito entries and cover those areas to prevent mosquitos from entering.

•Empty standing water. Mosquitoes lay eggs near standing water. Empty and clean objects that hold water such as rain gutters, buckets, toys and birdbaths.

•Prepare for travel. Stay informed of the areas that have Zika and check travel notices before your departure.

•See a doctor or health care professional. Symptoms do not always show up when a person is infected with Zika. If you are concerned that you may be infected, talk to your health care professional immediately. If you plan to have children or are pregnant, the CDC recommends getting tested for Zika regardless if you are showing symptoms or not.

CHAT member hospitals include Children’s Health (Dallas), Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, Cook Children’s (Fort Worth), Covenant Children’s Hospital (Lubbock), Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas (Austin), Driscoll Children’s Hospital (Corpus Christi) and Texas Children’s Hospital (Houston).

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