HOUSTON - As members of Congress vote on emergency funding for the Zika virus, local health agencies worry the disease could have a major impact on Houston.
They are particularly concerned for pregnant women because the illness, spread by mosquito bites or sexual contact, has been linked to severe birth defects.
"We are planning for more cases both in Houston and around the city," said Kevin Nix of Legacy Community Health. "At our southwest clinic, we see 300 pregnant women a day, most of them do travel at some point to Latin America."
Health officials confirm 15 cases of Zika in the Houston area. All the local patients contracted the disease while visiting abroad.
Legacy is currently treating a pregnant patient who contracted the virus in El Salvador.
"We are seeing her every week. The baby is doing is fine and we will wait to see how the pregnancy goes," said Nix.
According to the federal government, there are more than 1,200 confirmed Zika cases in the US and its territories. The CDC says it is monitoring close to 300 pregnant women nationwide who have the virus.
In addition to educating patients and checking for symptoms, Legacy is distributing special "Zika Prevention Paks". The bags contain bug spray and condoms.
"With mosquito season coming up and temperatures getting warmer, we want people to take precautions now rather than get it," said Nix.