With the news this afternoon of two new cases of Zika in Miami Beach, the number of non-travel-related cases of the Zika virus continues to tick upward. As of yesterday, there were 33 such cases in the state, as well as 461 travel-related cases and 63 cases involving pregnant women.
As a healthcare organization, we’re working to ensure that we are providing our patients and community with adequate resources and information. This week, our community health team hosted a seminar on Zika at South Miami Hospital. A special thanks goes to Jorge Perez, M.D., Rafael Perez, M.D., and Tomas Villanueva, D.O., for taking part in the panel and to our community health team for organizing the event. More than 100 people were there to hear from our experts and ask questions. It was also a great opportunity to reach our community through the media. The Miami Herald, WLRN, Telemundo and Univision covered the event.
Per the governor’s direction earlier this month, all county health departments are now offering free Zika risk assessment and testing to pregnant women. At Baptist Health, we are conducting testing through the health department at our outpatient hospital labs as well as at several of our diagnostic imaging centers. The list of locations and testing information can be found at BaptistHealth.net/Zika. Patients are required to have a physician’s prescription as well as completed health department forms in order to be tested for Zika at a Baptist Health facility. Patients who are not pregnant must also have pre-approval from the health department.
As the situation evolves, I want to stress the importance of prevention. We are in a unique and critical position to encourage our patients and our community to take precautions in order to prevent a wider spread of the virus. While the virus is of most concern to women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, those who do not fall in that category should be encouraged to protect our pregnant community by taking precautions themselves. Each of us, when not protected, provides an opportunity for mosquito vectors to transmit the virus.
The CDC has great information on prevention. I encourage you to take a moment to read through it and ensure that you’re doing everything possible to protect yourself and your community. As Baptist Health South Florida employees, we are often looked to by friends and family for advice and expertise on any issue affecting the health of our community – including this one. That’s a good thing, and even if we aren’t experts in every area, we usually have access to the information. Here are the links to two simple handouts from the CDC with an overview and prevention information that I think will be useful to you when you get questions about Zika. You can print them out or forward them electronically (I texted them to my sons, who don’t know what paper is). Having 15,000 people pushing out facts to the community has a big impact.