HOUSTON – Legacy Community Health, one of Texas’ largest community health systems, has retracted a statement made Thursday, announcing that six of its patients have been confirmed positive for Zika in 2017.
Legacy’s Dr. Ann Barnes, chief medical officer, released the following statement:
“Legacy Community Health, in conjunction with Harris County Public Health and Houston Health Department, has since conducted an in-depth review of the six Zika occurrences the health center announced yesterday morning. As a result of that review, we can only confirm the individuals were exposed to a flavivirus, which can include Zika as well as other viruses. The laboratory results do not provide a conclusive diagnosis that the women became infected specifically with Zika virus. Legacy regrets the error.”
Months ago, these patients were screened for the virus and given a preliminary diagnosis. It was not until last month that Legacy received confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control that all were confirmed positives. All six women, who contracted the virus while traveling outside of the country, have delivered their babies.
“The threat of Zika is lower this year than last in our hemisphere, but as our six latest cases show, pregnant women in Texas should remain vigilant,” said Dr. Ann Barnes, Legacy’s chief medical officer. “Patient education in Harris County must continue through this year’s mosquito season. Prevention must still be the key message coming from public health officials and health care providers.”
Both U.S. Senators from Texas, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, recently sent a letter to the CDC highlighting Zika’s ongoing risk to Texas, calling prevention a “critical public health priority.”
The Legacy system, made up of 29 clinics across Southeast Texas, sees approximately 300 pregnant moms each day. Last year, the health center saw eight cases of the virus.
The World Health Organization has said the virus is no longer a global health emergency, and the U.S. mainland has seen a drop in Zika-related cases. Travel alerts issued by the CDC are still in effect, however, for Cameron County in South Texas and Miami Dade County in Florida. Pregnant women should consider postponing travel to these areas.
In addition to routine screening protocols for its pregnant patients, Legacy has included Zika awareness into its “Becoming a Mom” pre-natal classes and is ramping up bilingual public education efforts. The best way to prevent the virus is to wear insect repellant with DEET and using condoms during sex.
Legacy Community Health, a not-for-profit Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), provides comprehensive care to over 150,000 patients, regardless of their ability to pay. A United Way agency, Legacy provides adult primary care, pediatrics, OB/GYN and maternity, behavioral health, HIV/AIDS care, and dental/vision..