It is almost summertime again, which means those pesky mosquitoes are back. No matter where in the U.S. you are working a locum tenens job, you most likely will have patients asking for information on Zika Virus – possibly because they heard about it again on the news and are curious, or because they are traveling somewhere where there’s a high risk of being exposed to the virus. Either way, as a health care provider, it’s important to know the basic information on Zika Virus.
New Information on Zika Virus
The mosquito-borne virus, which can cause birth defects in babies, was a hot topic last summer in the health care industry, and Kaiser Health News is reporting that the Zika Virus will pose a threat to the U.S. again this year.
What happened last year?
The Zika Virus had its impact on the U.S. in 2016, with 5,102 people reportedly having the virus and 64 babies affected since the government started reporting outcomes a year ago. Most people contracted the virus while traveling in South and Central America.
What’s happening right now?
You might be thinking – didn’t we learn enough from last year so that we will be better prepared this time around? Possibly. But a lot of things have changed since last year, according to the Kaiser Health News report. For example, the U.S. is under new leadership, and there have been federal funding cuts to programs that are critical in monitoring and researching the Zika Virus. There is also a hiring freeze within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which could lessen the country’s ability to adequately respond to a Zika Virus outbreak, some experts said. In last year’s budget, Congress allotted $1.1 billion to fight and research the Zika Virus. The $1.1 billion from last year is expected to stretch through September of this year.
What should I do?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released new information on Zika Virus this spring, sharing in a press release that it has updated guidelines on how to interpret test results on pregnant women. Basically, researchers have learned that testing for Zika Virus isn’t exactly telling us if women were infected before or after they became pregnant because the virus’s antibodies can linger for months after infection. This means health care professionals (like you!) should follow the list of recommendations from the CDC when evaluating women who had potential Zika Virus exposure.
The most important thing to know about the CDC’s list of recommendations is to first look for symptoms of Zika Virus. Symptoms can include a fever, rash, muscle aches, and red eyes. It’s important to remember that not everyone who has Zika Virus shows signs of it. Even if symptoms are not detected, if you believe the woman was exposed to the Zika Virus, test her right away. You should also make sure to test her sexual partner too. Since we learned that the Zika Virus can linger, doctors should consider testing patients during each trimester of pregnancy, just in case.