You’ve likely seen the news reports about the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Although this mosquito does not currently live in the United States, there have been some cases where people have contracted the virus while traveling abroad. As of Feb. 1, the World Health Organization declared Zika a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, and this week health officials confirmed a second case of Zika in Spokane County.
To help fight the virus, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response recently released a new comprehensive resource on Zika for clinicians and response personnel, titled “Zika: Resources at Your Fingertips,” which includes an overview of the virus as well as considerations and resources for providers, broken out by role. There is some testing available for Zika, and the CDC is very focused on expanding the capabilities for additional testing.
Only about one in five people who come down with Zika will show any symptoms. The symptoms shown by those who contract it are often mild. The greatest concern is for the babies of pregnant women living in or traveling to impacted countries. Zika is linked with microcephaly: a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected compared to babies of the same sex and age. Typically, children suffering from microcephaly have smaller brains that might not have developed properly. There is also an increase of neurological disease such as Guillain-Barré in adults.
Our hearts go out to the countries so impacted by this virus. You will likely hear more in coming months and years how support is needed for these children.
Thank you for making infection prevention and control a top priority. We are constantly preparing to fight infectious diseases like Zika, and the first step to being prepared is staying informed. We will continue to keep you up to date on the latest Zika news, and we encourage you to stay in touch as well with the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Zika page.
In the meantime, don’t forget to wash your hands. Although it does not prevent Zika, it prevents many other infections that you are likely to encounter. Also, all physicians and staff should be immunized for Hepatitis B, chickenpox, measles, whooping cough and flu unless there is a medical contraindication. Our patients depend on us!
Senior Vice President for Patient Safety