World Health Organization Declares Zika Virus a Global Public Health Emergency
By SMART Health Claims
What Local Public Health Agencies Need to Know
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Zika Virus a global public health emergency for only the fourth time in history, stating that the virus is “spreading explosively.” The CDC reported that worldwide, Zika has been detected in more than 25 countries and is expected to infect up to 4 million people by the end of 2016.
The mosquito-born disease is of particular concern for its impact on pregnant women, as it is suspected to cause brain damage in newborn babies. The CDC has issued a travel alert (Level 2-Practice Enhanced Precautions) for people traveling to regions where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.
The Spread of Zika
According to the CDC, more than 35 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with the Zika Virus in areas across 11 states and Washington D.C. While most positive diagnosis cases of Zika have been identified in individuals who have traveled outside of the U.S., one case was locally acquired in the United States.
President Obama recently called for the rapid development of tests, vaccines and treatments to fight the virus, which could spread to the United States in warmer months. "The president emphasized the need to accelerate research efforts, to make available better diagnostic tests, to develop vaccines and therapeutics, and to ensure that all Americans have information about the Zika virus and steps they can take to better protect themselves from infection."
Local Public Health Agency Responses to Zika
Local health officials nationwide are closely monitoring the virus and working to clearly communicate precautions to their communities. Dr. Stephen May, medical director of the Sullivan County Health Department in Virginia, said that the best way to combat the virus is to avoid exposure to all mosquitoes in general. ”Prevention is key. Wear long sleeve shirts, wear appropriate insect repellent and reduce mosquito environments where they can grow in our yard,” he said.
The Virginia Department of Health is working to maintain clear communication with all doctors in the region, asking them to advise pregnant women against travel to Zika-affected countries, including Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In Texas, Jefferson County health officials are urging pregnant women to reconsider travel to affected regions. Officials are also reaching out for help to defend against Zika; In Houston, the McAllen Health Department is seeking additional resources from the CDC to help test for mosquito viruses.
CDC Guidelines for Health Care Providers
The CDC details clinical evaluation information for health providers regarding the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of the Zika Virus. The following information provides a snapshot of what public health agencies should know:
- About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill (i.e., develop Zika).
- The most common symptoms of Zika are mild and include fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis, muscle pain, and headache. The incubation period for Zika virus disease is not known but is likely to be a few days to a week.
- Zika usually remains in the blood of an infected person for a few days, but it can be found longer in some people.
- Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.
- Deaths are rare
- The symptoms of Zika are similar to those of dengue and chikungunya; diseases spread by the same mosquitoes that transmit Zika.
- See your healthcare provider if you develop the symptoms described above and have visited an area where Zika is found.
- If you have recently traveled, tell your healthcare provider when and where you traveled.
- Your healthcare provider may order blood tests to look for Zika or other similar viruses like dengue or chikungunya.
- No vaccine or medications are available to prevent or treat Zika infections.
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink fluids to prevent dehydration
- Take medicine such as acetaminophen to relieve fever and pain
- Do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen. Aspirin and NSAIDs should be avoided until dengue can be ruled out to reduce the risk of hemorrhage (bleeding). If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.
- If you have Zika, avoid mosquito bites for the first week of your illness.
- During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites.
- An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.
For more information about the Zika Virus, visit http://www.cdc.gov/zika/resources/index.html.
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