Even though the 26 Zika virus cases in Oklahoma have all been travel-related, “The concern is for our population during that nine month period after a traveler returns, within a demographic such as ours,” state Rep. Richard Morrissette says.

            That’s because the Zika virus can live within us and be transmitted for approximately nine months, but researchers are quick to say that it could be longer.

            Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, sponsored an interim legislative study about Zika last week at the State Capitol.

            “This isn’t about how far an Aedes aegypti mosquito can fly and its subsequent limited attack range for Oklahomans,” he said. “For us, it’s more about post-infection cases from human travel and how long the transferrable virus lives within us and what we might do while we are in this condition to unwittingly transmit Zika to others. The target population for the greatest risk would be impoverished women of child-bearing age, specifically those who experience an unintended pregnancy.”

            Oklahoma has 364,092 women of child-bearing age who are on SoonerCare. Within the population most likely to experience an unintended pregnancy, one where precautions were not taken, such as teen pregnancies, “poverty is a driver,” Morrissette related. Oklahoma ranks No. 1 in the nation in teen pregnancy rates, he noted.

            “The impact to Oklahoma taxpayers to cover the costs from Zika is staggering,” Morrissette continued.

            In 2010, the lawmaker said, 19,600, or 80.7 percent of the unplanned births in Oklahoma, were publicly financed. And during pregnancy, Zika often results in microcephaly. The cost to provide food, shelter and medical care for an infant born to a Zika-infected mother includes many monthly trips to the doctor for loss of hearing and eyesight, anti-convulsion drugs for constant seizures, as well as stimulation therapies, etc.

            To better understand the horrendous consequences of an unplanned pregnancy in the age of Zika, watch this film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96KnaIlK4eE

            “For the time I have left in office,” Morrissette said, “I will work together with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and our new state Medicaid Director, Becky Pasternik-Ikard, to advance health initiatives to include the development of waivers necessary to bring existing but yet-to-be-enacted legislation of mine to help those in poverty, including our senior citizens.”