Calling the Shots: Nursing News and Notes

Just In Time for Mosquito Season: A Zika Virus Update

Just In Time for Mosquito Season: A Zika Virus Update

Thursday, May 19, 2016

With mosquito season right around the corner, what threat does the Zika virus pose for the U.S.? Does the virus have the potential to become a nationwide health epidemic?  Our latest blog post explores the most recent developments since our earlier Zika post in February. 

In January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for the Zika virus; by February they shifted to level 1 activation, the highest activation level. Since then, the EOC has been monitoring and coordinating the country’s emergency response to Zika by bringing together scientists with expertise in arboviruses (Zika is an arbovirus), reproductive health, birth defects, developmental disabilities and travel health. These scientists have been:

  • Monitoring the spread of the Zika virus  and other mosquito-borne illnesses in the U.S., its territories, and around the world
  • Developing laboratory tests to diagnose Zika virus infection; a new rapid test for Zika virus was introduced in recent weeks by a consortium of researchers
  • Teaching healthcare providers to recognize Zika virus infection
  • Studying links between the Zika virus and microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome and to gauge the persistence of Zika virus in urine and semen among U.S. males
  • Advising travelers and Americans living in areas with outbreaks
  • Educating the public about the Zika virus.

According to Dr. Denise Jamieson, Chief of the CDC’s branch of Women’s Health and Fertility, the immediate risks of the Zika virus are only for women living in locations where mosquitos are currently transmitting the virus, such as Brazil, Colombia, and the Caribbean. Cases reported in the continental U.S. so far have been linked to travel or sexual transmission; mosquitoes aren’t currently spreading the disease in the continental U.S.

Cascade of Events

Many areas in the U.S. have the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that are responsible for the spread of the Zika virus disease, but a variety of factors have to be in place for a widespread outbreak to occur.  Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the U.S. would have to bite an infected person during the week when the virus can be found in the person’s blood. The mosquitoes would have to survive long enough for the virus to multiply, and for the mosquitoes bite another person. This process would have to be repeated numerous times to cause on outbreak in the continental U.S.; so an outbreak is possible, but not likely.

Still Cause for Concern

Even though an outbreak in the continental U.S. is unlikely, there’s still cause for concern. In April, the CDC announced that there was sufficient evidence to suggest that Zika virus infection during pregnancy is a cause of pregnancy loss, and microcephaly and other severe brain anomalies. 

They issued an update to their interim guidance for healthcare providers caring for women of childbearing age with possible Zika virus exposure.  The guidance includes information related to counseling women and men about possible Zika virus exposure, pregnancy planning, and timing of pregnancy. Recommendations include:

  • For women diagnosed with Zika virus infection or who have symptoms (rash, fever, joint pain, or red eyes) after possible exposure, wait at least 8 weeks after symptoms first appear before trying to get pregnant; for men wait 6 months to have unprotected sex.
  • For men and women with possible exposure, from recent travel or sexual contact, wait at least 8 weeks to try to get pregnant to minimize risks.
  • For men who live or have traveled to an area with active Zika virus who has a pregnant partner, use a condom every time they have sex or don’t have sex during the duration of the pregnancy.

With mosquito season approaching and uncertainty about the possibility of a continental outbreak of Zika, it’s extremely important for nurses and clinical staff to stay informed about the Zika virus.

Lippincott Advisor, the leading point-of-care clinical decision support software for institutions, has recently expanded its Diseases & Conditions content monographs to include the latest evidence-based information about the Zika virus.  For more information on how to obtain this resource for your facility’s clinicians, click HERE.

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