Bordering on an Outbreak

From the Texas Observer
December 18, 2017

Brownsville can’t afford a Zika outbreak,
but it also can’t afford to prevent one.

At the Mary P. Lucio Health Center one July afternoon, Esmeralda Treto gets the news she is hoping for: Treto, a 34-year-old mother of two, is pregnant with her third child. But for medical staff at the Brownsville clinic, Treto’s visit is also a chance to give the expectant mother a test for the Zika virus and educate her about the disease. On this day, the staff has its hands full. “We have another one!” a nurse shouts from the next room, as she shuttles a second pregnant woman into the room to join us. The place is bustling with patients, many of whom rarely see nurses or doctors. For public health workers on the front lines of the fight against Zika in Brownsville, where at least two babies were born with microcephaly in the last year, a single encounter with a patient can make all the difference.

Treto didn’t know she could contract Zika from a sexual partner. She didn’t know what the symptoms look like, or that only 20 percent of patients show any sign of infection at all. Though she knew the virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, she was unclear on how to protect herself.

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