Zika, a mosquito-borne virus linked to birth defects including microcephaly in babies born to mothers who were infected during pregnancy, is causing concern among health officials from around the world, and continuing to make headlines. The virus has been widely covered in the media. And, as news about this virus evolves, we are responsible for focusing on the facts and making sure we are informed and prepared.
While we do not yet understand the full spectrum of outcomes that might be associated with infection during pregnancy, nor the factors that might increase risk to the fetus, here is what we do know:
Local transmission of the virus has not been documented in the continental United States, but has been identified in more than 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Centers for Disease Control is recommending that until more is known and out of an abundance of caution, pregnant women should consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women, and women planning to become pregnant, who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their healthcare providers first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes (conjunctivitis); however, the CDC estimates 80 percent of people infected with the virus have no symptoms. There is no specific antiviral treatment for this virus.
“From a global perspective, the medical community has the technology to know where there is an outbreak and how it is spreading, so it gives us an opportunity to prepare,” said Dr. John Braden, Baptist Health South Florida’s Director of Emergency Preparedness. “We will continue to monitor and gather data to continue to manage this effectively.”
As a healthcare system, we are watching the spread of this virus and working closely with the health department to ensure we have the latest information. The CDC has developed guidelines for health care providers in the U.S. caring for patients during this outbreak. We are following those guidelines. As always, our patients go through a screening process which includes travel history. Based on travel information and symptoms, we work with the health department to determine whether or not patients need to be tested for the virus, and treat them appropriately.
Dr. Jorge Perez, medical director of neonatal intensive care at South Miami Hospital and chairman of South Miami Hospital’s Center for Women and Infants says: “we are looking at the protocols the CDC is recommending and keeping up to date with the data and the countries that are affected.”
Additional studies are planned to learn more about the risks of Zika virus infection. For more information, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/.
As always, we will keep you informed as we learn more about the virus and its effects.