MCALLEN, RGV – As of Aug. 9, women who meet the criteria will have access to free mosquito repellent in an attempt to prevent the Zika virus from affecting the state of Texas.

Charles Smith, Health and Human Services executive commissioner, announced that Texas Medicaid will cover the cost of mosquito repellent for women who are between the ages of 10 and 45 or pregnant.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito. If the virus infects a pregnant woman, it can cause birth defects such as microcephaly and other brain defects.

Olga Gabriel
Olga Gabriel

In a press release from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Smith said the best way to protect yourself from Zika is by avoiding mosquito bites.

“There is currently no vaccine to prevent the disease or drug to treat it, making it essential that people use mosquito repellent to protect  women and unborn babies.” Smith said.

As of today, there have been 93 reported cases of the Zika virus in Texas according to the Texas Department of State Health Services website. Officials across the state are working on receiving federal funding to assist in preventive measures and preparedness.

Dan Patrick, lieutenant governor of Texas, announced that Texas received approval of just over $6 million in federal funding to assist with Zika preparedness and response efforts. The funds will also cover Zika response teams, epidemiology and laboratory capacity as well as surveillance of birth defects.

The Texas Border Coalition (TBC) sent an open letter to federal and state officials requesting funds to aid the Texas-Mexico border region–representing approximately 2.4 million people–to prevent the virus from spreading.

Olga Gabriel, health chair for TBC, said there’s about $385 million in unobligated Zika funding to fight this crisis. The money is being allocated to laboratories for research and testing, however TBC wants to use some of those funds to educate the communities of lower income and help prevent the virus from reaching their areas.

“But what we want to do is get the money into prevention rather than a response,” Gabriel said. “We know that we have the mosquito here. We know that we have it in El Paso [as well as] Brownville … and it’s going to be more cost effective to have a prevention plan in action. So, that’s what we’re asking the funding to be diverted to–these communities that don’t have the resources.”

Women who qualify for mosquito repellent must be in one of the following programs: Medicaid, CHIP, CHIP-Perinate, Healthy Texas Women or Family Planning.

Women can receive up to two cans per month until Oct. 31.