McALLEN – Health officials from Texas and Tamaulipas met at a one-day conference to receive a briefing on the Texas Zika response.

The State of Texas Active Response to Zika (STARZ) is organized by Hidalgo County Health and Human Services Department, the City of McAllen and with funding by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The event helps provide a briefing on the Texas Zika response and provides updates on research and coordinated efforts which will continue to support public health and safety for communities.

Chief Administrative Officer with Hidalgo County Health & Human Services Eddie Olivares said the three primary things attendees would take away from the conference is cutting edge technology, research and infrastructure.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in partnership with Doctor's Hospital Renaissance is part of a nationwide vaccine trial on Zika. The county is also working with their partners from Mexico to share information and create a comprehensive plan for the near future.

As of April 22 over 38,000 laboratory results have been processed in Hidalgo County since testing began in 2016. In 2019 a total of 105 cases have been investigated in which one Zika virus infection case was identified.

With the emergence of Zika in Hidalgo County, efforts have expanded mosquito surveillance, disease case management and educational outreach. As of April 2, 2018 the Texas Department of State Health Services recommends that physicians include Zika PCR testing once every trimester as part of routine prenatal care for pregnant women living in areas with risk of Zika.

Hidalgo County is one of nine counties in Texas identified to be at higher risk of spreading Zika due to the favorable climate and geography for mosquito activity year-round.

“What is key here is we have to consider the prenatal health of mothers and we have to consider the component of what ZIKA can cause,” Olivares said. “The key factor is prevention of any potential birth defects due to this arboviral virus.”

Olivares said all it takes is one incident. From a public health point of view one of the charges the county has is to provide the support services for any mother who may be infected with Zika, to follow through in providing support and guidance in the event there is any birth defect involved with the child.