Health Care and Zika

A new
virus has reared its ugly head. Just when you think SARS, MERSA, Ebola,
Chikengunya, Swine and Bird Flus, and a host of other recent critical diseases
have been contained, a new bug goes rogue. Currently the World Health
Organization and other agencies are tracking the movement of the disease with
various mechanisms and reporting.  Zika
is primarily a threat to pregnant women due to the potential harm to unborn
Zika virus
is not new. Outbreaks have occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia and the
Pacific Islands. It is new in the Americas, however. Brazil reported the first
case in May 2015, and since then, infections have occurred in at least 20
countries in the Americas. Puerto Rico reported the first locally transmitted
infection in December 2015, and Zika cases are now being reported in the United
States, all from returning travelers, reported CNN earlier last week. The first case of
sexually transmitted Zika was reported in Dallas, Texas, this month from a
traveler who returned from Venezuela.
Zika has
been called a milder form of dengue fever. The most common symptoms of Zika
virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The
illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week.
Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon, says the CDC.
It is
spread to people through the bite of infected
Aedes mosquitoes. Although it can also be transmitted from a pregnant
mother to her baby during pregnancy, it is not otherwise transmitted person to person. People are contracting
Zika in areas where those Aedes mosquitoes are present. This includes South
America, Central America, the Caribbean and the U.S. mainland. For more
information, visit this website:
to the CDC, there is no vaccine to prevent infection or medicine to treat Zika.
CDC has issued a travel
notice (Level 2-Practice Enhanced Precautions)
for people
traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is
This notice follows reports in Brazil of microcephaly(
and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with
Zika virus while pregnant. However, additional studies are needed to further
characterize this relationship. More studies are planned to learn more about
the risks of Zika virus infection during pregnancy.
Until more is known, CDC recommends special precautions for
pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant: Pregnant women in any
trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus
transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who do travel to one of these areas
should talk to their doctor or other healthcare provider first and strictly
follow steps
to avoid mosquito bites
during the trip. Women trying to become
pregnant should consult with their healthcare provider before traveling to
these areas and strictly follow those same steps.
The NY
Times reports that
health officials in the United States, however, say the
risk of a major homegrown outbreak is low because mosquito control programs are
systematic and effective. They cite a related virus, dengue, which is also
transmitted by mosquitoes but has not spread very much since first appearing
locally a few years ago.
The current outbreak of Zika has taken the world by
surprise. The virus was first identified in 1947 in Uganda, and for years lived
mostly in monkeys. But last May in Brazil, cases began increasing drastically.
The W.H.O. has estimated that four million people could be infected by the end
of the year. The rapid spread is because people in the Americas have not
developed immunity, public health experts say. More info is available at this
CNN has reported an update about the current view of the
potential threat of Zika. See their report here:
In addition, the CDC
said there have been documented cases of virus transmission during labor, blood transfusion, and laboratory exposure. While Zika has been found
in breast milk, it’s not yet confirmed it can be passed to a baby through
According to PAHO, the Pan American Health Organization, In
most people, diagnosis is based on clinical symptoms and epidemiological
circumstances (such as Zika outbreak in the patient’s area or trips to areas
where the virus is circulating).
Blood tests can help to confirm the diagnosis. Some (virological PCR
tests) are useful in the first 3-5 days after the onset of symptoms, while
others (serological tests) detect the presence of antibodies but are useful
only after five days. 
Once it has been demonstrated that the virus is
present in a given area or territory, confirmation of all cases is not
necessary, and laboratory testing will be adjusted to routine virological
surveillance of the disease. Prevention involves reducing mosquito
populations and avoiding bites, which occur mainly during the day. Eliminating
and controlling Aedes aegypti mosquito breeding sites reduces the chances that
Zika, chikungunya, and dengue will be transmitted.

An integrated response is required, involving action
in several areas, including health, education, and the environment. To
eliminate and control the mosquito, it is recommended to:

Avoid allowing standing water in outdoor containers
(flower pots, bottles, and containers that collect water) so that they do not
become mosquito breeding sites. 
Cover domestic water tanks so that mosquitoes cannot
get in. 
Avoid accumulating garbage: Put it in closed plastic
bags and keep it in closed containers. 
Unblock drains that could accumulate standing
Use screens and mosquito nets in windows and doors to
reduce contact between mosquitoes and people. 

To prevent mosquito bites, it is recommended that
people who live in areas where there are cases of the disease, as well as
travelers and, especially, pregnant women should:  

  • Cover exposed skin with long-sleeved shirts, trousers,
    and hats.
  • Use repellents recommended by the health authorities
    (and apply them as indicated on the label).
  • Sleep under mosquito nets. 

The Zika virus
is no doubt a major health problem, and steps are being taken globally to help
prevent and reduce the potential outbreak. For your own sake, practice common
sense solutions to this health care issue. If you or someone you know may be
symptomatic, see a doctor right away.

Until next time.  

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