Important message from Dr. Weber regarding Zika virus

Please review this message from Dr. David J. Weber, Associate Chief Medical Officer and Medical Director of Hospital Epidemiology at UNC Hospitals, which provides an overview of the Zika virus outbreak and actions required at UNC Medical Center if a patient traveled to Zika outbreak areas while pregnant. Note that this information is precautionary – we have not seen any confirmed cases of the Zika virus in North Carolina at this time.

Zika Virus Background
The most common symptoms of Zika virus infection are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (pink eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. For full details, visit http://www.cdc.gov/zika. 

The CDC has issued travel notices for people traveling to certain regions and countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing, including some parts of the Americas. Although transmission of Zika virus to humans primarily occurs via the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, maternal-fetal transmission can also occur. Other mechanisms of human-to-human transmission have been described but are infrequent. 

Actions Required when caring for patients hospitalized with Zika virus
For patients hospitalized with known or suspected Zika virus, only Standard Precautions are recommended. Because Zika virus infection in  pregnant women may lead to infants being born with congenital abnormalities (e.g., small heads), pregnant women who traveled to or resided in Zika virus outbreak areas should be evaluated for infection by their primary care physician. If they had been infected during pregnancy they should be evaluated by their obstetric provider for fetal injury. Children born to infected pregnant women should be evaluated by a pediatrician. 

The CDC has developed specific guidelines for the following (available at:  http://www.cdc.gov/zika/hc-providers/index.html)

  • Screening and management of pregnant women
  • Prevention of sexual transmission
  • Evaluation and testing of infants with possible congenital Zika virus infection
  • Diagnostic testing

Signage in UNC Medical Center clinics
UNC Medical Center staff in Family Medicine clinics, Obstetrical clinics, and the Emergency Department should post signs in clinics asking pregnant women to notify front desk staff and physicians if they have visited a Zika outbreak area while pregnant.

We also ask all UNC Medical Center primary care clinics to post signs for persons interested in advice on traveling to Zika outbreak areas.

More information
For more detailed information on the microbiology and management of Zika virus, visit the State Health Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and World Health Organization. For further information on diagnostic testing, please contact the UNC Medical Center Microbiology Director on-call at 984-974-1805.

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