Zika week in Review, February 26, 2016

Thomas Masterson MD
Thomas Masterson MD

Thomas Masterson MD, Editor, MedicalNewsService.com

More warning come from the public health services regarding the Zika Virus.  The pandemic virus continues to cause health concerns beyond a simple virus infection.  Does the virus cause birth defects?  Scientists suspect that it does, but the answer is still not clear while the virus continues to spread rapidly by mosquitos and now we know, through sexual contact.  Were you infected with the virus when you travelled to Brazil, it’s hard to tell because 4 out 5 people don’t have symptoms.  The mosquito that spreads the Zika Virus can be found in all of the Americas except Canada and continental Chile.  So far the majority of the cases are in South and Central America.  North Carolina reported their first Zika case, but again this was in a traveler.  China is up to 3 travelers and recommends that we use bug spray for 2 weeks after we get home to keep the virus from spreading here.  The CDC, use bug spray for 3 weeks.

The FDA doesn’t want your blood.  As a safety measure against the emerging Zika virus outbreak, today the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a new guidance recommending the deferral of individuals from donating blood if they have been to areas with active Zika virus transmission, potentially have been exposed to the virus, or have had a confirmed Zika virus infection.

In areas without active Zika virus transmission, the FDA recommends that donors at risk for Zika virus infection be deferred for four weeks. Individuals considered to be at risk include:

  • those who have had Zika symptoms during the past four weeks,
  • those who have had sexual contact with a person who has traveled to, or resided in, an area with active Zika virus transmission during the prior three months,
  • and those who have traveled to areas with active transmission of Zika virus during the past four weeks.

The FDA does not want blood from areas with active Zika virus transmission.  Look for Zika signs and Zika questionnaires when you donate blood.

Zika and sex are in the news.  It’s been confirmed that Zika can be spread by sexual contact.  There are 14 reports of possible sexual transmission.  The only risk factor in these 14 cases was the guy travelled to Zika endemic areas.  So far, it looks like Zika is spreading from men to women sexually.  Whether women can infect men is unknown.

Travelers in the news include North Carolina’s first case of Zika in a returning traveler.  Similarly, the Government of China announced that 3 returning travelers had brought the virus with them home from their travels.  The Chinese cases came from a tour group that had visit Fiji and Samoa.  Most people coming home with Zika won’t know it, so the Chinese Public Health authorities recommend the use of bug spray for an additional two weeks.  The idea is to keep us from spreading Zika to the mosquitos where we live.

Reports from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) indicate 37,000 people in Columbia are suspected of Zika infection and 6,300 of these are pregnant women.  PAHO is working with its member countries to strengthen vector control, communicate the risks of Zika and promote prevention, and establish or improve surveillance of both Zika virus infections and suspected complications, such as microcephaly, Guillain-Barré syndrome, and other autoimmune and neurological disorders.

Aedes mosquitoes, the main vector transmitting zika, are present in every country in the region except Canada and continental Chile. To prevent or slow the spread of Zika virus, as well as dengue and chikungunya, which are also transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, PAHO recommends the following:

Mosquito populations should be reduced and controlled by eliminating breeding sites. Containers that can hold even small amounts of water where mosquitoes can breed, such as buckets, bottle tops, flower pots or tires, should be emptied, cleaned or covered to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in them. This will help to control. Other measures include using larvicide to treat standing waters.

All people living in or visiting areas with Aedes mosquitoes should protect themselves from mosquito bites by using insect repellent; wearing clothes (preferably light-colored) that cover as much of the body as possible; using physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows; and sleeping under mosquito nets, especially during the day when Aedes mosquitoes are most active.

Pregnant women should be especially careful to avoid mosquito bites. Although Zika typically causes only mild symptoms, outbreaks in Brazil have coincided with a marked increase in microcephaly—or unusually small head size—in newborns. Women planning to travel to areas where Zika is circulating should consult a healthcare provider before traveling and upon return. Women who believe they have been exposed to Zika virus should consult with their healthcare provider for close monitoring of their pregnancy.

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